The government said on Wednesday that it had launched an investigation into the activities of alleged treasure hunter Michael Hatcher, who has a lengthy history with Indonesia and is believed to again be operating on a new discovery.
Aji Sularso, an official with the National Committee for Salvage and Utilization of Valuable Objects from Sunken Ships (Pannas BMKT), said it had established a joint investigation team comprising related government institutions.
“We are investigating the case,” Aji said.
Aji was responding to complaints by the Consortium for Rescuing National Assets (KPAB), which alleged the ministry had not responded to its report regarding Hatcher, who may hold both British and Australian passports.
Speaking during a news conference in Jakarta, Endro Soebekti Sadjiman, a member of the consortium of nongovernmental organizations, said they believed Hatcher and his associates had been operating in Indonesia since 1986 and had surfaced in a “secret mission in Blanakan waters” near Pamanukan, Subang, West Java.
“The government must arrest him,” Endro said.
Daniel Nafis from Inside Indonesia, another member of the coalition, said Hatcher began operating in Indonesia salvaging the Vec De Geldermalsen shipwreck in East Bintan waters, Riau Islands province.
Items from the ship reaped $15 million during auction at Christie’s Amsterdam, he said.
It was this incident that led the government to establish Pannas BMKT to supervise any further salvage missions, Daniel said.
In 1999, Hatcher allegedly discovered the Tek Sing shipwreck near South Sumatra waters. According to some Internet accounts, the vessel is described as the “Titanic of the East,” given the loss of life associated with the sinking in 1822.
It has been described as one of the most important antique shipwrecks ever discovered.