Tom's Treasure... Perhaps

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Pablo Edronkin

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In 1968 a man named Tom Gurr found a sunken treasure off the coast of Florida, USA; a fortune was his, until Uncle Sam appeared.

Tom Gurr was a treasure hunter that finally hit gold when he found the shipwreck of the San Jose de las Animas, a Spanish vessel that sunk near the coast of Florida in 1733. Back then, the law allowed people like Mr. Gurr to explore the waters and keep all findings located at least three nautical miles offshore (about five kilometres), and the treasure found in the remains of the San Jose complied with that condition perfectly, at least in the beginning.

Soon enough after he became rich, state agents appeared and claimed 50% of the whole treasure for Uncle Sam on the basis that the shipwreck was actually inside the three mile limit established by law. For that, they reinterpreted the legal document arguing that the distance was to be measured from the outer sandbanks and reefs, and not the coastline as it had been done before.

Five years of ensuing legal battles brought neither comfort nor justice form Mr. Gurr; his boat sunk mysteriously while still in the docks and he had no money to live with. Ironically he was rich, but he could not make any use of the treasure he found, so he wanted to get even and he did: he called a TV crew and live, from another ship, he threw the treasure back into the waters stating that if the whole thing was the state's, then the government should get it back.

The justice system that never listened to him in five years, nevertheless, accused promptly of destroying government's property, and Mr. Gurr himself had to salvage the treasure again.

In the end, the state got its share and that of Mr. Gurr was spent entirely in legal fees. He got nothing because he forgot the truth of any prize: getting it is half the work, because when others learn about your luck they will come like pirates to fetch it, especially the government.

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