Thu. Apr 25th, 2019

A Colombian court 'seizes' the treasure of the Spanish galleon "San José"

Un tribunal colombiano ‘secuestra’ el tesoro del galeón español “San José”

A court of Barranquilla ordered the embargo or "kidnapping" of Treasure of the Spanish galleon
Saint Joseph
, sunk by English corsairs near Cartagena de Indias in the 18th century. The court ruling responds to the appeal made by a US company that claims rights on 50% of the charge.

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The Superior Court of Barranquilla revokes a ruling of October 2017 and maintains "the precautionary measure of kidnapping decreed by order of October 12, 1994." In its ruling, the court states that it revokes "the order dated October 31, 2017 proffered by the Third Civil Court of the Circuit of Barranquilla within the verbal process (...) promoted by the company Sea Search Armada (SSA) against the nation ".

A litigation that comes from afar

In this car the court "decided to lift the precautionary measure of kidnapping in the process," which appealed to the American treasure hunt company SSA. Sea Search Armada claimed in 1989 "100 percent of the goods of economic, historical, cultural or scientific value that had the quality of treasures for the case of what was found on the continental shelf" or within the coordinates that had been consigned in a confidential report of 1982.

A judge in Barranquilla determined in 1994 that the treasures would correspond 50% to Colombia and another 50% to the US company. However, the finding of "San José" was announced on December 4, 2015 by the former Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, whose government launched a tender with foreign companies to extract the wreck from the bottom of the sea.

The Colombian government does not want the treasure to end up in an antiquarian

The bidding provided for a percentage of the valuable cargo of precious metals that the ship was carrying as part of payment for that work. The government of President Ivan Duque, Santos's successor, has repeatedly postponed the terms for hiring the company that will recover the galleon, the most recent of which expired on March 10.

Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez assured that the Government will not allow the treasure of the galleon to end up in the world's antiquarians. "Our history and the legacy of our ancestors will not end up being converted into assets to be negotiated by antiquarians, collectors or treasure hunters from all over the world," said Ramírez in Bogotá.

Colombian heritage

The vice president added that the Colombian Constitution "imposes the commitment to defend the heritage of all Colombians and the government of President Ivan Duque will not spare efforts in this work." Colombia has a Law, 1675 of July 30, 2013, which aims to "protect, visualize and recover the submerged cultural heritage."

According to said law, all the remains that are in Colombian waters are included in this law, including "the shipwrecked species constituted by the ships or naval artifacts and their endowment, their remains or parts, endowments or recumbent elements within them, whatever their nature or state, and whatever the cause of the immersion, sinking or shipwreck ".

'Half-hearted' with the treasure hunters

However, that law stipulates that "commercial burdens made of materials in their raw state, whatever their origin, such as pearls, corals, precious and semiprecious stones, sands and woods," shall not be considered "submerged cultural heritage". "Serial personal property that would have had exchange or fiscal value such as coins and bullion".

It also includes the possibility of forming a public-private partnership for a treasure hunt company to recover the wreck and obtain compensation of "up to 50% of the value of the goods (in this case, in the galleon) that do not constitute the nation's cultural heritage. " The San Jose, laden with gold from the Viceroyalty of New Granada, silver from Peru and precious stones, went down on June 8, 1708 after being hit by cannons of English corsairs.

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