Digging for Gold &
Finding a Rat, Instead
There are two sure ways to change one’s social status, we’re told: win the lotto, or find a lot of cash. What we’re rarely told about, though, is that pesky moral itch that troubles some: where’s this coming from? That’s surely enough to put a chill on that big blast in Vegas.
What if you’d come across a cache of dough? Yay, you’re rich. But wait, you’d say. Was this stolen from natives? Jews? drug fiends? If you’d been in the mountains of Poland, or in the sea and farms of Colombia, in the past few months, you’d certainly wonder. As you should.
So, fine, what if you don’t ask those questions? No sweat, take the money and run. Who knows, you may have people you want to help, will wind up running a charity or something. Good for you. Just be sure not call anyone from that bus station, once you’re done and broke.
The Internet is full of heart-warming stories, about nice chaps finding cash and instead of running, returning it all. Which is great but doesn’t turn anyone into a certified saint. Then again, there’s always the possibility that it’s too good to be true. A con. A hoax.
There are many ways to screw up the few chances one gets in this life. Even if there’s no nobility on starving, or natural enlightenment for being poor, time on Earth goes very fast. That means that, even making a wrong detour may lead you to redemption. Or something. Just don’t call, etc.
A 2-PART, 300-YEAR BATTLE
The Spanish Armada’s 1588 defeat to the British didn’t stop their nations’ centuries-old rivalry (which set today’s dominance of their languages). In May of 1708, one of its ships, the Galleón San José, lost another battle to the Royal Navy and sank off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia.
Last week, when Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted the wreck’s discovery, staking a claim over its estimated record $17 billion treasure, he immediately set up yet another 3-way battle, this (more)
* Freaky Links
* Small Classes
time in court, involving also Spain and a U.S. firm. The British are sitting this one out.
Nothing is as it seems, however. The U.S. firm, Sea Search Armada, says it’d already found the site in the 1980s, and has been disputing Colombia’s claim ever since. But of the three, Spain may come out the winner, since it’s won a similar case in the past.
It’s a lot of money, though (in precious metals and stones), if it’s ever confirmed and recovered. Who it belongs to remains to be determined, even though it’s obviously spoils left over from Spain’s brutal plundering of Latin America’s natural resources during the Discovery Era. Would you take the money and run?
BURIED TRAINS OF GOLD
By 1945, panic had set in the Third Reich: the Red Army was at Berlin’s gates and the Nazis’ empire of horror was all but finished. Still there was the loot taken from all those Jewish families they murdered in the Holocaust. So, they load it all in three trains and buried them.
Or so believed historians, but U.S., Russian, and Polish secret services have failed to find them. Till now. A new search will focus on Project Riese, a network of tunnels dug deep below the Polish-Czech border. Following a lead from an eye-witness, and using hi-tech equipment, local treasure hunters Pietr Koper and Andreas Richter are confident they’ve found what appears to be one of the trains.
It may be loaded with gold, weapons, and artworks, but even if found, it may not make the hunters, who don’t even have an official claim to the treasure yet, wealthy men. And then there’s the issue of the hundreds of tourists who descent into Walbrzych, willing to make a buck and fast.
It probably won’t end up well, and Koper and his buddy may not get even the commission they seek, if they ever find it before someone else does. And what about the families from whom the Nazis stole it in the first place? So don’t book your trip to Eastern Europe just yet.
THE HOLY GRAIL OF DRUG MONEY
Back in Colombia, this week marked the 22 years of the killing of Pablo Escobar, history’s biggest cocaine dealer, and just between us, still a folk hero to some locals. It’s said that, when his bullet-ridden body was laid to rest, some $30 billion of his cash still remained unaccounted for.
In fact, during his heyday, Escobar was making so much money that he had to bury most of it, since there wasn’t yet a good way of laundering it, such as today’s New York real estate market for instance. Still, the story of a farmer coming upon a load of it somehow smells a rat.
Last month, the Internet was teeming with a tale that went like that: José Mariena Cartolos was digging an irrigation trench on his land when he hit something solid underground. As it turned out, it was a blue container, with – are you sitting? – $600 million in cash inside.
DON’T PACK YOUR SHOVEL JUST YET
Now, although it’s all possible, giving what we know about Escobar’s habits and powerful lore over Colombians, one has to wonder whether so much money can even be stashed inside a single container. Fearing the worst, no major paper has seriously touched the story.
Whether it’s true or not, the government has kept mum about it, happy with the inflow of shovel-carrying tourists into the cash-deprived country. But not so fast: after scrutinizing the wads of cash shown in the only picture released, some annoying self-appointed probers concluded: it’s a hoax. Now are you sure you still think that that’s a good way up the social ladder?