Greg Brooks: Salvaging WWII Treasure or Scamming Investors?

PHOTO: In this file photo, treasure hunter Greg Brooks is pictured on March 25, 2004 in Portland, Maine.
PHOTO: In this file photo, treasure hunter Greg Brooks is pictured on March 25, 2004 in Portland, Maine.

It is reported there may be $3 billion worth of platinum ingots resting on the bottom of the ocean floor, 50 miles off the north eastern coast of Cape Cod. The UK-owners of a sunken WWII freighter said to have been the ingots plus jewels, gold, and silver want to know if the freight truly is worth $3 billion. The US investors who have put forward $8 million into the salvage effort. Sadly there isn’t much to show for it.

The Main Office of Securities announced this week it will be researching information from the residents in Maine who invested in–or were approached–about investing in Sea Hunters, L.P., and two other companies who are linked to Greg Brooks, the treasure hunter who is trying to locate the sunken freighter, the SS Port Nicholson.

Brooks isn’t being investigated because he hadn’t found anything; inventory of found items Sea Hunters filed with the US District Court in Portland included a broken compass, a fire extinguisher and a Brick.

An attorney in Portland, Michael Kaplan, represented the United Kingdom’s interest in the ship, describes the current list of retrieved goods as “pitiful.” He believes they left a few things off the list, “like jewels, gold, platinum, and silver,” as he told the Bangor Daily News.

Kaplan, and his colleague, Timothy Shusta from Tampa, told ABC News they believe there isn’t anything of value left to be found from the wreckage. The reason, they say, is the original “Lloyd’s List” manifest for the ship states it only had military stores in board.

Sea Hunters contends in court filings that the ship was carrying somewhere near 71 tons of platinum ingots.

Due to refutation, Kaplan cites US Geological Survey yearbooks from the 40s documenting the world’s mineral production. In the years prior to WWII, he states the total world’s production of platinum only totals to 15.5 tons a year. He believes it is impossible that the freighter was carrying anything close to 71 tons.

Kaplan and his colleague will continue to keep a close watch on the situation though. Partially for what they call PR reasons: What if there really is a treasure down there? They say the British public would be furious if their government were not taking precautions to protect their claim to the ownership of the wreckage.

Brooks says he has been working periodically through the years on the effort to salvage the cargo, even with long delays which he attributes to bad weather and faulty or insufficient equipment. His investors have grown restive.

An investigation of Brooks’ operation by the Portland Press Herald during 2013 stated that Brooks,   who has worked as a treasure hunter for the past 30 years, has never found treasure. The story listed several salvage experts and marine archaeologists who have expressed doubt that his attempt to find the treasure from the Port Nicholson was anything more than an effort to raise money.

Robert Marx is an underwater archaeologist who has written 64 books on treasure hunting. He told a newspaper that in a business full of less-than-honorable hunters, Brooks stood out. Marx said they have a saying in the business that if someone was trying to fool investors, they would say “Are you doing a Greg Brooks?”

Marx was contacted by ABC News and he stated that nothing of any value would be recovered from Nicholson. He even stakes his reputation on it. He cited the Lloyd’s records and an earlier salvage effort for the freight turned up nothing. As for Brooks’ claim that he has found treasure, Marx told ABC that he didn’t believe him.

ABC News asked Brooks and his attorney, Thimi R. Mini, to comment on the assentation that the ship carried no treasure and that the salvage effort was just a money-raising scheme. They declined to answer.

ABC News questioned the Maine Office the Securities how frequently the Office had to question investors for investments. Office spokesman, Doug Dunbar, said the number of requests is relatively slim, maybe only five a year.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE