“Great news! We have found SEVENTEEN BILLION DOLLARS“, President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted paraphrasing of course! The multibillion shipwreck treasure was found submerged off the coast of Baru in what is now Colombia, near the Rosario Islands.
History notes, that On the morning of May 28, 1708, the British Commodore, Charles Wager, wrote in his journal “Little wind round the compass, calm, cloudy and some rain.” Commodore Wager commanded a squadron of four British warships, which lay in wait off the Spanish Main, hoping to surprise and capture the treasure-bearing galleons of the Spanish fleet as they approached the port of Cartagena. One victim of the surprise attack was San JosÃ galleon.
Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos said the discovery came during an operation of the Colombian Anthropology and History Institute, with the participation of the Colombian navy and several worldwide scientists. Historic reports say the San Jose Galleon was carrying 116 chests of emeralds, two tons of platinum and the personal wealth of the Viceroy of Peru – making her the richest treasure ship ever lost in the western hemisphere.
However recovering this estimated $4 to $17 billion in lost treasure may not be as easy as it seems. The fate of the treasure has been the subject of a long-running legal battle with U.S.-based Sea Search Armada, which claims its predecessor found the wreckage in 1981. Sea Search Armada, a US-based salvage company, has a long-standing suit against Colombia over ownership of the wreck. In 2010, SSA sued Colombia in U.S. courts and asked for $17 billion in compensatory damages.
In in 2011 the Supreme Court rules that Colombia held the rights to items deemed to be “national cultural patrimony”.
Time will tell if with the Official Announcement by Columbia if the legal battles over the possible $17b will start once again, however President Santos seemed to make clear who he believed had the rightful claim on the bullion capping his press announcement with this: The treasure “belongs to all Colombians,” he said. “And protecting it must be a national goal.”
Hutton Pulitzer reporting for Investigating History Daily www.InvestigatingHistory.org