Lawsuit Foils Colombia’s Bid to Salvage $17 Billion in Sunken Treasure

Action off Cartagena, May 28, 1708

A lawsuit from a group of “concerned citizens” is foiling the Colombian government’s plan to salvage $17 billion in sunken treasure sitting at the bottom off the ocean off the Colombian coast.

The lawsuit claims the San José—a 300-year-old vessel containing the $17 billion in sunken treasure—and all its treasures should be government property, and that the government’s “public-private partnership” contract should not be valid, the Miami Herald reported.

“History will not forgive us if new and sophisticated conquistadors, known by the [United Nations] as treasure hunters … once again loot the galleon like it was prey,” part of the lawsuit reads.

The Colombian government was expected to make a televised announcement Monday night revealing the company or companies eligible to recover the San José, but the lawsuit put the brakes on the announcement.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos brushed off the anonymous lawsuit by the “concerned citizens” as people trying to lay claim to the San José‘s riches.

The government initially proposed a contract that would give one lucky company the chance to salvage the shipwreck and construct a museum in Cartagena highlighting the discovery. The winner would also win the right to 50 percent of the treasure not considered to be of national interest.

An underwater robot discovered the shipwreck three years ago, unearthing more than $17 billion in treasure on the more than 300-year-old vessel.


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