The court awards a silver medal to the rescuers of the sunken ship in 1942
The $36.3 million in silver bullion recovered in 2017 from the wreck of the merchant ship SS Tilawa — sunk in 1942 off the Maldives by torpedoes fired from a Japanese submarine — is attributed to the salvors, Argentum Exploration Ltd., by the British Admiralty Court.
Argentum Exploration Ltd. is run by treasure hunter Ross Hyett, former executive director of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, according to the Silver Institute
The SS Tilawa was en route on 19 November 1942 to the South African ports of Bombay, India, now known as Mumbai, with 954 people, mostly Indian nationals, on board, together with 2,364 silver bars destined for the production of South African coins.
Some sources suggest the shipment reflects 2,391 silver bars.
On November 23, 1942, she was hit by the first of two torpedoes. Before the ship was sunk by the second torpedo and sent to the bottom of the Indian Ocean, 673 of the people on board were rescued by another ship, to be taken back to Bombay. The remaining 281 people perished.
The South African government sought to get the rescuers to relinquish possession of the silver bullion on the pretext that the precious metal was state property.
The government had hoped that the South African Mint would convert the silver bullion for use in coin production.
Hyett’s legal team successfully argued in court that the SS Tilawa was on a business and non-government mission, and as such, under recovery rules, the money belonged to the rescuers who recovered it, according to the Silver Institute.
A long history of the SS Tilawa can be found online at www.sstilawa.com.
Relatives who lost loved ones on the SS Tilawa have a separate website at tilawa1942.com dealing with the fate of the ship.
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