Sea Search Armada, a US-based salvage company, claims the Republic of Colombia owes it $4 billion to $17 billion for breaching a contract granting it the right to salvage the galleon San Jose, sunk by the British Navy on June 8, 1708.
The Spanish galleon San Jose was trying to outrun a fleet of British warships off Colombia on June 8, 1708, when a mysterious explosion sent it to the bottom of the sea with gold, silver and emeralds owned by private Peruvian and European merchants, and lies about 700 feet below the water’s surface, a few miles from the historic Caribbean port of Cartagena, on the edge of the Continental Shelf.
Jack Harbeston, managing director of the Cayman Islands-registered commercial salvage company Sea Search Armada, who has taken on seven Colombian administrations during two decades in a legal fight to claim half the sunken hulk’s riches.
“If I had known it was going to take this long, I wouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place,” said Harbeston, 75, who lives in Bellevue, Wash.
The 41-page federal lawsuit outlines a long, tortuous jpurney through the Colombian courts after the Glocca Morra Co. identified six shipwreck locations, between 1980 and 1985, operating with permission of Colombia’s Direccion General Maritima.
Harbeston claims he and a group of 100 U.S. investors – among them the late actor Michael Landon and the late convicted Nixon White House adviser John Ehrlichman – invested more than $12 million since a deal was signed with Colombia in 1979 giving Sea Search exclusive rights to search for the San Jose and 50 percent of whatever they find.