Roger Dooley: "You have to control and step out of the treasure hunters" | Culture
The American Roger Dooley (New Jersey, 75 years old) is the underwater researcher - "pirate", "treasure hunter", "plunder", his detractors call him - most rejected by Spanish archeology. He is accused of being responsible for numerous plunderings in the Caribbean paid by the Government of Fidel Castro and having set his sights now on the wreck of Saint Joseph, the Spanish galleon sunk during a naval battle in 1708 in Colombian waters with an immense treasure, and that he located. The Government of the former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos signed a contract in 2015 with the Swiss company Maritime Archeology Consultans (MAC) for which it was left with 50% of everything found by running the company with the expenses of the excavation.
The president of Colombia, Iván Duque, weighs whether to break the contract. Spain presses and offers its cooperation to “jointly execute an archaeological project adjusted to the best scientific practices” in "The cemetery of 600 Spanish soldiers". Dooley, the archeology specialist at MAC, recalls that if the Colombian government maintains the contract “it will have to pay between 54.5 and 63.4 million euros as compensation” for the investments that MAC will make to extract the galleon. If it breaks now, it should pay between six and seven million, which is the amount invested so far, but MAC will not extract the ship. "There is no body of any soldier there," he says in Spanish with the soft Cuban accent acquired in his youth in Havana. He also admits to having been "more than a hundred times" in the Archive of the Indies of Seville to "collect information" of galleons.
Question. You are the most rejected person by Spanish underwater archaeologists.
Reply. I want to clarify that I am not a spokesperson (spokesperson) or MAC director. I am your consultant. The treasures that have appeared in the world, Our Lady of Atocha or La mercedes They are very well known. In no project of them I have participated. Where things change is in the looting in Cuba. It is true that the Carisub company (of the Cuban Government) was dedicated to looting. It was created to search for currencies at the bottom of the sea. They called me to be their scientific director. They had found anchors and cannons and didn't know where they came from. I was the deputy director between 1982 and 1986. I see in the Archivo de Indias (Seville) that there is a lot of information. We locate The Mercedes The director of the company was an alcoholic and wanted to loot everything.
P. And participated?
R. No, I quit. They exploded that ship and twenty more. But I did not participate.
It is true that the Carisub company (of the Cuban Government) was dedicated to looting. It was created to search for currencies at the bottom of the sea "
P. He is accused of not being an archaeologist. That has studied?
R. I started studying Physical Oceanography in Cuba, at the Academy of Sciences, because at that time there was no Archeology School. When the Institute of Archeology was created, I studied four years, graduated and did my master's degree in 1975. I am a professional archaeologist.
P. Your name appears in the call Clinton List of Control of Foreign Assets of the US Treasury.
R. In 1979 I worked in Cuba and earned seven dollars a month and they offered me a job of 1,000 dollars a week in a charter company to join Cuba and Florida at the time of Jimmy Carter. I found it perfect. Ronald Reagan arrived and ended the flights and closed the company. That's why all the workers were on the list. But years later, I hired a lawyer, and they took me out. They never accused me, nor was I a prisoner.
If the excavation is signed, Colombia must pay 70 million. They can pay with a small percentage of what is not equity "
P. Were you a member of the Cuban Communist Party? Since I was at the Academy, I had licenses ...
R. Never. That cost me a lot of problems.
P. The Colombian Government will give MAC 50% of what is extracted in the Saint Joseph If you don't break the contract.
R. It is a project of 50 or 60 million dollars. Colombia in 2013 created a new law that allows working in the country in exchange for delivering as payment all non-assets. I looked for Colombians with capital, but I didn't find them. Then I returned to Colombia on behalf of MAC and we found the galleon.
P.How much have you invested so far?
R. Six or seven million dollars have been since 2015: 60 investigators, lawyers, specialists ... A lot of money has been put in.
There is no grave with 600 Spanish sailors. Well maybe there is someone caught in the cellar boxes. It also decomposes "
P. If MAC invests, at the moment, seven million dollars, it will want to recover, at least, the same amount of the deposit.
R. Nerd. That is the initial. The only way to recover it is to invest 60 million, make an excavation and have the Colombian government pay it in some way.
P. But could the government only pay you with the gold of the ship?
R. Logically If the Executive does not agree to make this association, there may be a process. Paying seven or 10 million to leave everything the same is not reasonable. Also, I think they have no capital. If the excavation is signed, 70 million will have to be paid. They can pay with a small percentage of what is not equity.
If there are thousands of coins of the same year and they are all the same, logically they can be to compensate (to MAC). They can also pay in cash "
P. What is not heritage on a state vessel?
R. What they say in the law that is repetition. Let's say that if there are thousands of coins of the same year and they are all the same, logically they can be to compensate (to MAC). They can also pay in cash. The only way to pay is with what your own law says.
P. How are you going to pay with a unique historical site?
R. I understand that But there is a Colombian law that says that if I have three million repeated coins, then one for display and payment with the rest the millions that the excavation costs. Colombia decided and MAC said: 'I invest'.
P. AdThere are 600 Spanish soldiers.
MAC was created in the Cayman Islands, it's true, but then moved to Switzerland "
R. No, there are 600 people dead on the ship. Only the winery remains, the ship sank, exploded, drowned ... There is no grave with 600 sailors. Thousands of boxes remain in the warehouse. Well maybe there is someone among them caught It also breaks down.
P. Spain has offered help to Colombia to take the boat out of a disinterested way.
R. There is no Spanish proposal to invest 60 or 100 million dollars. There is talk only of collaboration and that is good, in fact, I have Spanish researchers who are collaborating with me in ceramics, in armament ... I do not know if Spain is willing to invest millions of dollars for a laboratory, for a museum in Cartagena de Indias ...
P. What is MAC?
R. It is a consulting company.
P. Who's behind?
P. Where they are?
R. I can not say it. I have it signed.
P. Where is it registered?
R. In Switzerland. There are English.
P. I was in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands.
R. That was at the beginning, when it was created. But they finally decided to go to Switzerland.
P. What was he doing last week in the Archivo de Indias?
R. I've been in the archive since 1975, also in Simancas. I'm investigating the Saint Joseph.
)P. How many times have you been?
R. Since the eighties, a lot. I don't know 90, 100 times ...
P. How much can the treasure be worth?
R. It is speculation. Only what was declared to the Crown, half a million pesos (from the 18th century) is known. Although there are reports that speak of 4, 6, 9 million pesos.
P. But what do you think?
R. The more treasure there is, the less it is worth. For a silver coin from the time of Saint Joseph They pay 200, 300 dollars if it is unique. But if there are 100,000 equal coins, they are worthless.
P. But how many are there?
R. There was no inventory.
P. Have you ever been banned from entering a Spanish archive?
P.Does it seem logical?
R. What does the director of the file say? Well, they can't stop me. I have a researcher card.
P. But do you understand the reluctance? You get the information and take the gold.
R. MAC signed a contract with Colombia. If they had not done so, there would be no MAC.
P. If Colombia rectifies ...
R. They are entitled, but they would have to pay. Everything is legal. Frank Goddio (a French treasure hunter) sold thousands of pieces to the Naval Museum in Madrid and there they are.
P. Do you never look for ships from other countries?
R. My specialty is Spanish naval history.
P. Neither English nor Dutch?
R. I specialized in the history of Cuba, in the wrecks archive. It is the history of Spain in Cuba.
P. What do you think of the treasure hunters?
R. It is awful. You have to control them, point them out and get in the way. I am the first.
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