Colombia has found the wreck of a Spanish galleon that sank off the coast of Cartagena and is thought to be laden with emeralds and gold and silver coins, the country’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, said on Friday.
The San Jose was carrying gold, silver, gems and jewellery collected in the South American colonies to be shipped to Spain's king to help finance his war of succession against the British when it was sunk in June 1708 during heavy fighting off the coast of Cartagena. In the fighting the vessel was reported to have exploded, with most of its crew killed.
Ownership of its treasures has been the subject of a long-running legal row between Columbia and Sea Search Armada (SSA), a US-based salvage company which had a longstanding suit against Bogota over ownership of the wreck. SSA said in 1981 it had located the area in which the ship sank. SSA has been claiming billions of dollars for breach of contract from the Colombian government, but in 2011 an American court ruled that the galleon was the property of the Colombian state.
It is estimated that the San Jose is one of more than 1,000 galleons and merchant ships that sank along Colombia's coral reefs during more than three centuries of colonial rule.
President Manuel Santo said that he would give more details about the find later on Saturday.