South Africa

  • $43 million in treasure from World War II ship sunk

    SS Tilawa

    By Kerry Breen - CBS News

    South Africa has won a legal claim over $43 million worth of treasure from a World War II shipwreck that was found off the country's coast by a British exploration company, the U.K.

    Supreme Court said on Wednesday. The sinking of the the SS Tilawa — which has been called the "Indian Titanic" — killed 280 people and sent over 2,000 bars of silver plunging to the ocean floor.

    On November 23, 1942, the SS Tilawa was sunk by Japanese torpedoes in the Indian Ocean, the court said in a news release announcing the ruling. In addition to nearly 3,000 people on board, the ship was also carrying 2,364 bars of silver that had been purchased by what was then known as the Union of South Africa to be turned into coins.

    The treasure aboard the sunken ship was irretrievable until 2017, when a specialist salvage vehicle from Argentum Exploration Ltd, a British company owned by hedge fund leader Paul Marshall, was able to reach the silver.

    The treasure was transported to the United Kingdom and declared to be the company's property, with Argentum Exploration arguing in a lower court that maritime law states that someone who salvages a treasure can claim payment for recovering it.

    The company argued that it was a voluntary salvage, which means that a payment could be asked for even though South Africa did not ask them to retrieve the silver.

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