Stories about lost Nazi treasures have often surfaced in different corners of the planet ever since the Third Reich’s capitulation 72 years ago, in 1945. During the course of World War II, Hitler’s troops would routinely loot assets of its victims, with the money and goods stored in secret depositories. All the looted resources, including gold, were supposedly traded into different currencies across European banks during the course of the war. Lost Nazi gold has been the subject of a plethora of conspiracy theories, books and movies in the decades since; At one point, the Vatican was accused of potentially holding 200 million Swiss francs ($211 million), a sum largely in gold coins, but a civil suit did not succeed in proving the connection.
Now, a British crew have reportedly discovered a trove of gold in the wreckage of a German cargo ship sunken off the coast of Island in 1939. The SS Minden set sail from Brazil on September 6th that year, after officials from a subsidiary of the Dresdner Bank loaded the ship’s cargo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. By September 24th, it was near Iceland on its journey back to Germany.
After the ship was noticed by the British cruisers HMS Calypso and HMS Dunedin, its crew purposely sunk the SS Minden so its precious cargo would not be seized by the Royal Navy, before being saved by the HMS Dunedin and taken into custody at a nearby naval base. As the two ships approached to intercept the German cargo ship, the SS Minden was ordered to be sunk by its crew, so its precious cargo would not be seized by the Royal Navy. The Minden crew were rescued by the HMS Dunedin and taken into custody to a naval base on the Northern Isles of Scotland. It is believed the discovered treasure to be worth around £100 million ($130 million).
The wreckage of the Nazi vessel is located 120 miles off the coast of Iceland, not in the country’s territorial waters, but within its exclusive economic zone, extending 200 nautical miles from Iceland’s coast. This means that, while the Icelandic authorities cannot make claim to any salvage from the wreck, they can enforce pollution controls and environmental impact measures at the shipwreck site.
The British salvage company Advanced Marine Services (AMS) which discovered the ship recently has reportedly requested permission from Icelandic authorities to cut a hole in the ship’s hull and remove the cargo. A spokesman for the Icelandic Environmental Agency told Fox News that an application has been received but it could be at least several weeks before a decision is made on whether permission will be given, and if so, under which terms. According to the spokesperson, an update might be issued during the course of August.
Earlier this year there was controversy as Seabed Constructor, the salvage vessel hired by AMS, was accused of looking for the wreckage without proper licensing. According to the Iceland Monitor, when the coastguard asked the crew why they were there they were given “vague and different explanations”.
A representative for the company confirmed to Fox News that Seabed Constructor was requested into Reykjavik on the 8th of April. “The company co-operated fully with the Icelandic Coast Guard and, having clarified its legitimate activity, was quickly able to return to sea,” he explained. “AMS complies fully with the international maritime law and has at no time conducted any activity without the requisite permits.”