Authorities dismiss treasure hunter's claims in northern Vietnam

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Authorities in the northern province of Quang Binh Wednesday officially dismissed the possibility of a royal treasure being found by a man who has been hunting it for the last three decades, Saigon Tiep Thi reported.


The dismissal was mentioned in a message sent by the Minh Hoa District People's Committee to provincial authorities in response to letters written by the treasure hunter, Nguyen Hong Cong. Cong has informed several local agencies that he had found the treasure of Emperor Ham Nghi (1802-1945).


In letters sent out on June 16, Cong, 60, also asked for 20 percent of the treasure's value as his finding fee, demanding that the agencies pledge to pay him within 50 days of his opening the treasure, the news website said.


Cong, who hails from the northern province of Thanh Hoa, startedscouring the mountains in and around Minh Hoa District in 1982.


Five years later he held a press conference, announcing that hehad detected the treasure's location, and the local government had agreed to send a group of experts and machines to help him excavate it.



The old man and the treasure trove
However, by early 1988, the government team was pulled off the dig after their efforts proved fruitless, and Cong continued his treasure hunt alone.


In 1997, Cong dispatched a written notification to the provincial authorities reporting yet another "discovery," claiming 10 percent of the treasure's value since he had borrowed a lot of money to finance his search.


The authorities once again dispatched a team to another site, but the team returned, empty handed.


Following the failure, the authorities forbid Cong from continuing his search and refused to re-issue him a permit to continue his search. Since then, he has continued to excavate caves and dig sites as a sort of rogue archaeologist.


In its report, Saigon Tiep Thi said during his search, Cong received VND2 million (US$97.32) per month in allowance from his family.


But, his family has said if his search continues to be fruitless as of this month end, the allowance will be stopped, the hunter said. Without financial support, he will drop the project, he added.


The cost of this lifelong project is estimated at VND2 billion (S$96,360) and rising.


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