Treasure hunter Ross Hyett, who lifted 60 tons of silver from a wreck during World War II, may lose the found treasures as a result of a new decision by the British Admiralty Court. This is reported by the Daily Mail.
We are talking about treasures from the British liner Tilawa, which died in 1942. The silver, which is estimated at 32 million pounds (3.3 billion rubles), was conceived to receive the authorities of the Republic of South Africa. They claim that it was taken there, which means that it must belong to them.
Hyatt claimed that he was ready to part with the booty if South Africa paid him a solid reward for lifting cargo from the bottom of the sea, which is provided for by the British Merchant Shipping Act of 1995. The South African authorities insisted that they were not obliged to pay him, and referred to the British National Immunity Act of 1978, which exempts sovereign nations from the need to follow the laws of Great Britain.
In December 2020, Judge Nigel Teare of the Admiralty Court upheld the treasure hunter and ruled that the Tilawa cargo was for commercial and not government purposes, and, therefore, South Africa's claims are groundless. However, when the case was reconsidered in January 2021, he acknowledged that South Africa's arguments were also not unwarranted, and allowed an appeal. The further fate of silver will be decided by the Court of Appeal.
The British liner Tilawa, sailing from Bombay with 732 passengers and a cargo of silver for the South African Mint, sank in 1942 after being attacked by a Japanese submarine. In 2012, 67-year-old race car driver Ross Hayett decided to go looking for sunken treasures and founded Argentum Exploration. Two years later, he managed to find the place where Tilawa died. In 2017, the Hayett firm began the rise of silver. The operation lasted six months and was carried out in strict secrecy. Silver was exported to Great Britain in a roundabout way, going around the whole of Africa so as not to enter the Suez Canal, where the Egyptian authorities could seize the booty.
Hyatt did not know that, in addition to him, the American company Odyssey Marine Exploration was looking for silver from Tilawa. She is best known for lifting 17 tons of gold and silver from the sunken Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes in 2007. An international scandal ensued, which involved several countries claiming the treasure. The Spanish Civil Guard seized the treasure hunt ship, but it was too late: the company managed to take the booty to the United States and refused to say where it was hidden.
In September 2016, representatives of Odyssey Marine Exploration contacted the South African authorities and offered to find the lost British liner. They agreed to receive 85 percent of the silver from Tilawa, with the remainder going to South Africa. When it turned out that they were outstripped, the South African authorities filed a lawsuit. They stated that the silver was intended for the South African Mint and therefore should be considered the property of the South African government.