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Divers acquitted of stealing from shipwreck

The men were suspected of taking bottles and cups from a ship that apparently sank near Porvoo while carrying a cargo of hemp.

Laivahylky meren pohjassa.

Eastern Uusimaa District Court on Friday dismissed all charges against four divers accused of stealing artefacts from a shipwreck in Finnish waters. The statute of limitations had run out on some of the charges.

The suspects were believed to have removed teacups and bottles from a sunken ship lying on the sea floor south of the south-eastern Finnish city of Porvoo in 2011. However authorities were unable to fully ascertain this.

The wreck lies at a depth of more than 40 metres, closer to the outer edge of Finnish territorial waters than the mainland. It was found as part of research by the Finnish Maritime Administration in 2004. The National Board of Antiquities obtained photos of it taken by amateur divers.

The wooden-hulled vessel is about 26 metres long and seven metres wide. The three-masted ship is estimated to date back to the eighteenth or nineteenth century, and may have been carrying a cargo of hemp.

Under Finland’s Antiquities Act, a wreck is considered to be state property if has been underwater for more than a century and has no known owner.

The antiquities board asked police to investigate the case eight times before charges were laid against the four men, all apparently Finns. The state has now been ordered to pay their legal fees of more than 26,000 euros.