June 18, 2024

[Q&A] Shinil retreats from W150tr ‘treasure ship’ claim, ICO scheme

PUBLISHED : July 26, 2018 - 17:08

UPDATED : July 26, 2018 - 17:17

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[THE INVESTOR] Korean company Shinil Group, which claimed to have found the wreckage of a Russian battleship carrying 150 trillion won (US$134 billion) worth of gold, backed down on July 26 saying it is unable to confirm its earlier claims. 

“As of this moment, we cannot confirm the existence or the amount of gold coins and bars,” said Chae Yong-seok, CEO of Shinil Group, at a press conference in Seoul. “But we are certain there is something of great financial value (inside the ship), based on the diver’s report that he discovered a bundle of boxes fastened with rope inside, and the fact that many different firms have poured money to discover the vessel over the years.”

However, Jeff Heaton, the chief pilot who operated one of the submersibles that discovered the vessel, said he didn’t see any boxes, raising further doubts on the claims. 

Earlier last week, Shinil announced it found the hull of Dmitri Donskoi, the armor cruiser that sank 113 years ago, off the Korea’s Ulleung Island. It claimed to have discovered gold coins and bars which are still onboard the vessel. 

At the press conference, the company showed footage of the wreckage, including several shots that show the name “Donskoi” inscribed on the side of the vessel. 

Sinil Group CEO Chae Yong-seok at the press conference

The chief apologized to the public for using unverified news reports and speculative information of “150 trillion won treasure ship” for promotion purposes. 

Shinil also denied its cryptocurrency involvement. 

“Shinil Gold Coin is established by another company that shares the same name as Shinil Group, and is based in Singapore. We have no plans on issuing tokens backed by the ‘treasure ship,’" he said.

Meanwhile, on the previous day, the Financial Supervisory Service said it is launching an investigation into Shinil for its involvement in the cryptocurrency market and possibility of manipulating stocks by spreading false information. 

Wreckage of Dmitri Donskoi.

Last week, after unlisted Shinil’s announcement of the vessel discovery, stocks of another firm Jeil Steel jumped by more than 30 percent on Korea’s stock market, as Shinil President Chae decided to acquire a majority stake in the firm.

Following are excerpts from the Q&A session.

Q: What is Shinil’s relation with the cryptocurrency Shinil Gold Coin?

A: Shinil Gold Coin is established by another company with the same name as Shinil Group, based in Singapore. We are a different company and unrelated to each other.

Q: Why did you claim there was treasure worth 150 trillion won inside the vessel?

A: The catchphrase of “Donskoi treasure ship with 150 trillion won” was used even before we began our exploration. But we do admit using unverified reports and speculative information that said the ship holds 150 trillion won worth of gold. We apologize for our irresponsible citation. 

They said there are 200 tons of gold inside the vessel, but that would only be converted to market value of around 10 trillion won. I don’t know how the 150 trillion won was calculated.

Q: How much will you need to recover the vessel and how are you going to finance the operation? 

A: Considering the good preserved condition of the vessel, we expect the operation to cost less than 30 billion won.

Once we obtain the green light from the maritime authorities for the salvage operation, we will kick off the process. If we discover gold coins or bars during the process, we will calculate the value and pay the 10 percent deposit required to continue the operation.

Q: Can you comment on the Financial Supervisory Services’ launch of a probe into Shinil over allegations of stock manipulation of Jeil Steel?

A: The FSS has launched an investigation, but it was never possible for us to manipulate the stocks. As a company, we have neither purchased stocks of Jeil Steel nor are involved in any illegal activities.

Q: What is the relationship between Shinil Group and Jeil Steel?

A: Shinil doesn’t have any stake in Jeil Steel. The confusion is due to my personal stake in the firm. Before I became the CEO of Shinil, Ryu Sang-mi, ex-Shinil CEO, and I decide to take over Jeil Steel personally. On July 5, we formed an agreement to take over majority stake in Jeil, even before I knew I was becoming the head of Shinil. Jeil has no relation to the ship business, and we are sorry if that caused any confusion or market losses.

Q: If gold is found inside the vessel, can Shinil claim ownership? What is the Russian government’s position?

A: We haven’t heard back from Russia yet. If Donskoi went down due to bombing or external factors, Russians can claim ownership. But according to documents, the vessel sank when Rusians scuttled the vessel as a strategic move during the Russo-Japanese War. So we can rightfully have ownership. The vessel has been abandoned for the past 100 years as well. 

We are preparing to send the official documents to the Russian government, and are working with law firms to legally obtain possession. 

By Ahn Sung-mi (

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