New Delhi/Kolkata/London: Days after nearly 44 tonnes of silver, worth a whopping USD 37 million (nearly Rs 210 crore), was recovered from a British cargo ship that sank during World War II, the Communist Party of India has demanded that the metal be brought to India.
As per a report in a leading daily, CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy has written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding the return of the recovered silver to its "rightful owner" India.
The ship, SS Gairsoppa, was hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat about 300 miles off Ireland`s coast in 1941 when it was steaming home from the then Calcutta while in the service of the Ministry of War Transport.
Reddy wrote in the letter: "The silver that was recovered from the SS Gairsoppa was carrying the riches to England from India in 1941 when a Nazi torpedo struck. Hence how can Britain be the rightful owner?"
He added that India "must assert and leave no stone unturned, including moving the International Court of Justice," to get back the silver.
SS Gairsoppa now sits 15,420 feet deep.
Salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc, a US deep-sea exploration company, has described it as the heaviest and deepest recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck ever made.
As per last reports, workers had brought up more than 1,200 silver bars, or about 1.4 million troy ounces.
The company is under contract by the British government and will get to keep 80 per cent of the haul after expenses.
The ship sank in icy seas more than three miles deep about 300 miles south west of Ireland and only one of her 84 crew members survived.
The 412-ft steamship is sitting upright on the seabed, with its holds open.
The ship, recognisable by the red-and-black paintwork of the British-India Steam Navigation Company and the torpedo hole in its side, was sailing in a convoy from Calcutta in 1941.
Buffeted by high winds and running low on coal, the captain decided he would not make it to Liverpool and broke from the convoy to head for Galway.
A single torpedo from U-101 sank her in 20 minutes, on February 17, 1941. Three lifeboats were launched, but only Second Officer Richard Ayres made it to land, reaching the Cornish coast after 13 days.
(With PTI inputs)