Four divers charged with raiding ancient shipwreck in Finland

A southern Finland district prosecutor has pressed charges against four men for allegedly stealing from a shipwreck protected by antiquities law.

The suspected wreck raid took place in 2011.

The Itä-Uusimaa district prosecutor said that the four Finnish men were not remanded in custody once charges were laid. However the prosecutor remained tight-lipped about what the men were believed to have taken from the sunken vessel.

The case came to light following a request for a criminal investigation by the National Board of Antiquities. Curator Maija Matikka described the wreck as being located in the open sea near Porvoo, some 40 metres beneath the surface. The wreck had been discovered by the Finnish Maritime Administration in 2004.

“It was a wooden ship, about 26 metres long and seven metres wide,” Matikka said.

No precise information about shipwreck

The ship had lain on the ocean floor for hundreds of years, once sported three masts and was believed to be carrying a cargo of hemp when it sank. The museum curator said the vessel was a typical shipwreck in the sense that there was no precise information about its age, when it went down or its origin.

“It could be from the 1700s or the 1800s,” she speculated.

According to antiquities law all shipwrecks are considered the property of the state if their owners are not known and if they have been lying under water for more than a century.

Back in 2011 the National Board of Antiquities lodged four requests for criminal investigations concerning the same wreck. It made another two requests in 2012 and 2013, but no charges were filed as a result of any of these complaints.

Matikka said that similar cases have been tried in court in Sweden.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Arctic shipwreck indentified by Canada as HMS Erebus, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: WWF Finland concerned about oil leak from shipwreck in Baltic Sea, Yle News

Norway: Norway returns Inuit artifacts to Arctic Canadian community, CBC News

United States:  IDs made in 1952 Alaska plane crash, Alaska Dispatch

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