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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 12:28 GMT
Sunken treasure rumours boost shares
Romanov family
The wreck is rumoured to contain Tsarist gold
Rumours of a huge discovery of sunken treasure by a South Korean company facing bankruptcy proceedings have sent its shares soaring.

Local newspapers have been full of reports about the Dong Ah Construction company discovering gold worth $125bn on a shipwreck of a Russian warship.

But stockmarket regulators are suspicious about the reports of the find and have suspended trading in the company's shares. Dong Ah has now been ordered to make a public statement by Friday clarifying the situation.

Gold bars
The company denies there are $125bn worth of gold bars on the wreck
The company acknowledged on Wednesday that it had discovered a sunken ship in the East Sea, but denied reports that the ship contained billions of dollars worth of gold bars.

A company spokesman said no clues had been found as to the identity of the ship and that information about the find was being closely guarded even within the company.

Newspaper reports

South Korean journalists, meanwhile, are speculating that the shipwreck could be the Dmitri Donskoi, a Russian warship from Tsarist times that was sunk during Russia's war with Japan at the beginning of the 20th century.

One local paper said the discovery of the vessel - rumoured to contain over 14,000 tons of gold - would be the biggest maritime discovery of all time.

But other newspapers advised their readers not to get their hopes too high.

The rumours were enough to send stocks of Dong Ah Construction, which was recently declared bankrupt, soaring to 410 won on Wednesday - their daily limit high for the second consecutive day.

No 'finders-keepers' case

The BBC's Seoul corespondent Caroline Gluck says that even if the rumours of the gold prove to be true, it is unlikely to be a case of finders-keepers.

A fierce legal battle to determine ownership of the gold would be expected.

The ship wreck was discovered in a joint project of the Ocean Research and Development Institute and Dong Ah Construction.

Twenty years ago a private company had attempted to discover the Dmitri Donskoi, but failed to locate the wreck.

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