It sounded too good to be true. Now, officials say it really might have been. In mid-July, the South Korea-based Shinil Group announced that it had discovered the wreck of the Russian Imperial Navy cruiser Dmitrii Donskoi and that the 200 tons of gold it was carrying when it sank in 1905 were likely still aboard.
Its value? $132 billion. "We spotted things that look like treasure boxes, but we have not opened them yet." The only thing they may have spotted was an opportunity run a scam: It's a little convoluted, but the allegation is that a Singapore-based affiliate of the Shinil Group launched a cryptocurrency called Shinil Gold Coin just prior to the big announcement.
Yonhap reports the Singapore outfit "allegedly tried to sell investors cryptocurrency issued based on the potential value of the shipwreck." Investors were allegedly told that dividends would be paid equal to about 10% of the gold's value in the first two quarters of next year, implying $13 billion, reports Motherboard.
That was apparently enough to spur 120,000 Koreans to invest $53 million into the cryptocurrency—whose website is no longer online. Shinil Group has backpedaled, per Reuters, clarifying it doesn't know if there is actually gold at the site of the wreck.
"There's no way for us to figure" that out, said the company, per the AP; and video it said it took of the ship is no longer on YouTube.
The Korea Herald reports the Korea-based Shinil Group has denied it has any ties to the cryptocurrency outfit, though it was apparently advertising the cryptocurrency on its website.
Police are investigating. (Closer to home, this might be the oldest ever shipwreck in Lake Erie.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: Shipwreck Packed With Gold May Be a Convoluted Scam