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Report: $3 Billion Treasure About Sunken Portuguese Ship

June 1, 1988

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ A sunken 16th century Portuguese ship discovered off in waters between Malaysia and Indonesia carries about $3 billion in gold and precious stones, a newspaper reported today.

The haul is ″believed to be one of the biggest lost treasures of the world,″ the chief minister of Malacca state, Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik, was quoted as saying.

The official, quoted by the daily New Straits Times, reported the treasure was on board the remains of Flor De La Mar, once the flagship of the Portuguese navy in the area. It struck a reef and sank in the Straits of Malacca in January 1512, a few months after an 800-ship Portuguese armada captured the Malacca Sultanate.

The ship, with a cargo he estimated at $3 billion, also carried Malay weavers and women, he said.

Rahim said he had held talks with a salvage group this week, but would not identify the company or disclose further details about its location, the newspaper said.

The National News Agency Bernama, The Star and other dailies also reported that Rahim said the ship has been found and that Malaysian officials and those of an unidentified foreign country have been contacted in connection with salvaging the treasure.

Other officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the foreign government is believed to be Indonesia and the treasure is lying off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra in the Straits of Malacca.

The state minister was quoted Tuesday in Malacca, about 90 miles south Kuala Lumpur. A spokesman at his home said ″he had gone out″ today and could not be contacted.

The Portuguese remained in the Malacca region of Malaysia for 100 years until the Dutch conquered it in 1641. The British landed in Malaysia in 1786 and then took control of the region.

Malaysia and Malacca got independence from the British in 1957.

Malacca is a state of Malaysia. The island of Sumatra is about 40 miles across the Straits of Malacca from the state.

Rahim said the salvage group has agreed to finance the salvaging of the treasure. But he said international laws stipulate that treasures found at the bottom of the sea should be divided among the country of origin of the treasure, the country where the treasure was found and the finder of the treasure.

The Malaysian government will not pay any cost for the salvage other than providing protection for the team, he said.

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