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VIDEO: Colombia Finds ‘The Holy Grail of Shipwrecks’

Sunken treasure! Explorers find what may be world's largest galleon haul 2:16

Colombian President Juan Manual Santos announced the discovery of a Spanish galleon that went down off the nation's coast more than 300 years ago with what may be the world's largest sunken treasure. Treasure hunters say it is the "holy grail of shipwrecks."

Over 300 years ago, on June 8, 1708, the galleon ship with 600 people aboard sank as it was trying to outrun a fleet of British warships. It is believed to have been carrying 11 million gold coins and jewels from then Spanish-controlled colonies that could be worth billions of dollars if ever recovered.

The exact location of the wreck is a closely guarded secret and there will likely be years of court fights to determine who is entitled to what. A lawsuit by American investors in a federal court in Washington was dismissed in 2011 and the ruling was affirmed on appeal two years later. Colombia's Supreme Court has ordered the ship to be recovered before the international dispute over the fortune can be settled.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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