This ‘Holy Grail’ Shipwreck Off Colombia Could Hold an Epic Treasure Worth $20 Billion. Now It’s Being Recovered.

A multibillion-dollar treasure may on the horizon for Colombia.

A wrecked Spanish galleon carrying a booty that could be worth as much as $20 billion (£16 billion) is set to be retrieved from the Caribbean Sea within the next three years, according to the Colombian government.

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San José sank off the Colombian port of Cartagena after a skirmish with the British navy in 1708. Historians believe the ship was carrying an epic treasure trove at the time, including 200 tons of gold, silver, and emeralds. The cargo is estimated to be worth $20 billion in today’s money.

Colombia’s president Gustavo Petro wants the “holy grail of shipwrecks” to be recovered before his term ends in 2026, as reported by Bloomberg. He isn’t the only one vying for the treasure, though.

In 1981, U.S. company Glocca Morra said it located the San José and handed over the coordinates to Colombian authorities in exchange for half the treasure upon retrieval. Then, in 2015, the Colombian government announced that it independently discovered San José at a different location. (It also shared a video of the ship last year.) Those coordinates remain a state secret, but Glocca Morra’s successor Sea Search Armada believes the Colombian Navy found the wreck in the same debris field it had discovered 34 years prior. Sea Search Armada is now suing Colombia for $10 billion—equivalent to half the fortune, as per its calculations.

At the same time, Spain, Colombia, and Bolivia’s indigenous Qhara Qhara community are arguing the treasure is rightfully theirs as the Spanish forced them to mine the precious metals.

Petro has told officials to set up a public-private partnership or do a deal with a private firm to get the San José to the surface as soon as possible, according to minister of culture Juan David Correa.

“This is one of the priorities for the Petro administration,” the minister told Bloomberg. “The president has told us to pick up the pace.”

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