Wednesday, May 24, 2006

 

ARTIFACTS THIEVES SETTLE LAWSUIT IN PALAU

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Pacific Islands Report
May 24, 2006


KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon) – Rolling Waves Ltd., the owner of the yacht Lionwind, has paid Palau US$40,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the local Attorney General’s Office after it was discovered that Lionwind crew members had taken artifacts from some shipwrecks in the Palau lagoon.

The Attorney General's Office said after obtaining a search warrant to search the yacht, six artifacts were recovered from the Lionwind by police.

[PIR Editor's note: According to PIR files, five divers who were crewmembers on the Lionwind pleaded not guilty to the 29-count criminal charges filed by government prosecutors ranging from damaging historical site or cultural property, to violation of the Palau Lagoon Monument Act, grand larceny, malicious mischief, possession or removal of government property, conversion of public funds and property, improper removal territorial waters and conspiracy (See story).]

The artifacts were reportedly taken from four different Japanese vessels that were sunk in the Palau lagoon during World War II combat.

The vessels are the Amatsu, the Choyu, the Ryuku, and the Maru.

The Palau Lagoon Monument Act provides that the Japanese vessels sunk in the lagoon and the contents of those vessels are to be preserved.

The law sets a maximum fine for the removal of an artifact at US$1,000, so the maximum fine for the six artifacts found on the Lionwind is US$6,000.

According to Attorney General Jeffrey Beattie, this made it difficult to obtain the US$40,000 settlement.

Beattie said, "The sunken Japanese vessels and artifacts are part of Palau’s historical heritage. Divers come to Palau from all over the world to dive these wrecks. Once they are gone, there is no way to replace them. We need to amend the Lagoon Monument Act to provide for stiffer penalties for the removal of these kind of artifacts because a US$1,000 fine is not much of a deterrent."

Beattie noted that approximately 66 Japanese vessels were reportedly sunk in Palau during World War II.

Separately, the Attorney General's Office filed criminal charges relating to the wreck looting against the captain of the Lionwind, two crewmembers, and a local dive guide.

Assistant Attorneys General Erin Johnson and Christopher Hale are prosecuting the criminal cases.


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