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Russia to investigate $3.7 bln sunken treasure claim


MOSCOW, January 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will investigate if it has a right to part of an estimated $3.7 billion worth of treasure discovered on board a British cargo ship sunk by a German WWII submarine, the Russian Culture Minister said on Friday.

A British cargo vessel, torpedoed in June 1942 while carrying precious metals to the United States to help pay for the Allied war effort under the Lend-Lease Act, was recently discovered by the U.S.-based Sub Sea Research company off Guyana. The sunken ship, given the codename the Blue Baron, is believed to contain gold, platinum and diamonds worth some $3.7 billion, possibly the world's wealthiest wreck. A large part of the cargo is thought to have once belonged to both the Soviet Union and Great Britain.

"This case is being studied by the Foreign Ministry," Alexander Avdeyev said. "That's the way these things go. First an international legal investigation is carried out in each case and then - identification of ownership. After that experts on cultural property get involved."

Anatoly Kolodkin, the president of the Association of International Maritime Law, said the issue of who the freight belongs to is complicated, adding that documentation confirming payment to the U.S. for the cargo as part of Lend-Lease should exist somewhere.

"If we are the owners and know that we are the owners, we need to file an application claiming ownership of part of the cargo. No such application has been filed," Kolodkin said, adding "We need to examine the archives to confirm that part of the cargo belonged to the Soviet Union and part to Great Britain."

The Sub Sea Research company that found the vessel has filed an initial salvage claim on the treasure, although Russia, Great Britain, Guyana, and the United States have yet to make any counter claim.

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