Off the Caribbean coast of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, the sunken 18th century Spanish galleon the San Jose sleeps peacefully under the water, with it a legendary buried treasure of mostly gold and silver estimated to be worth anywhere from $1 billion to $10 billion. Now, the Colombian government is preparing to retrieve that treasure, and to do so they're accepting bids on investors who can help make that retrieval a reality.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently announced the launch of a public-private collaboration to dig up the San Jose treasure, the bidding for which is set to begin this Friday, according to AFP. That's when the "scientific and legal parameters" of this collaboration will also be made public, but it is known now that Santos hopes to build a museum near the wreck site to display the pieces recovered in the effort, as well as a laboratory to analyze and store all of the recovered material.
Whoever does win the chance to dig up the most famous sunken treasure in history might be getting involved in a future legal tangle, though, since the Spanish government has maintained that according to the UN Law of the Sea – a treaty that Colombia did not sign – the wreck belongs to them since the San Jose was a Spanish ship. In 2011, a US court ruled that it was indeed Colombia's, but when a treasure worth $10 billion (not to mention its priceless historical value) is on the line you can expect every legal channel to be pursued in grabbing a piece of it. Nevertheless, Colombia says there is currently no litigation in process disputing the ownership of the treasure.
The San Jose sunk in June, 1708, when it was the head ship of a fleet transporting silver and gold (as well as other valuables) to Spain from Peruvian and Bolivian mines under King Philip V of Spain.