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Dispute Between South Africa & British Company Over Silver Bars Worth $43 Million Found In A Wrecked Ship

After a protracted legal battle, the dispute over the silver bars worth $43 Million, found in a ship destroyed by Japanese torpedos during WWII, has finally reached a resolution. This Wednesday, the British Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ships’ original owner, South Africa, bringing an end to this years-long dispute.

In 2017, Argentum Exploration, a company that mainly salvages wrecked ships, recovered the “Indian Titanic” after it sunk nearly eight decades ago. As compensation for its voluntary effort, the company claimed the 2364 silver bars still present inside the wrecked vessel. 

However, all hell broke loose when the South African government learned about the “unasked for” expedition. South Africa sued the British company, claiming that both the ship “SS Tilawa” and its treasures belonged to South Africa. The 2364 bars of silver and 5900 tonnes of cargo were onboard when the ship was attacked, causing it to sink in the Indian Ocean. 

The lower court ruled in favor of Argentum on the basis of “in use or intended for use for commercial purposes,” which means the silver bars were meant for commercial usage anyway. The ruling didn’t change when South Africa submitted their appeal to an appellate court. However, South Africa succeeded in their third attempt as the British Supreme Court disagreed with the judgment of lower courts.

The court believes the silver bars were bought by the Union of South Africa to be minted and distributed as coins, which doesn’t fall into the commercial purpose category. "Cargo sitting in the hold of a ship is not being used for any purpose, commercial or otherwise," stated the Supreme Court in its verdict. Hence, the silver bars were handed over to the ships’ original country.

The SS Tilawa, the first ship to be wrecked and sunk in the Indian Ocean during the Second World War, holds a significant place in history. It’s often referred to as the “Indian Titanic” or the “forgotten Tragedy.” The ship's cargo, including the 2364 silver bars, was a part of this historical event. Nearly 280 people lost their lives in this tragic event, while 678 were fortunate enough to be saved by two rescue ships.

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