Owner of 840-Pound Emerald May Finally Be Decided
LA court case of Bahia gem continues, despite claim from Brazil
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2015 7:07 PM CDT
This 2008 file photo provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department shows the Bahia Emerald.   (AP Photo/Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, File)

(Newser) – An 840-pound emerald is still without a clear owner after six years in police custody, but that could be settled soon in Los Angeles Superior Court. Judge Michael Johnson says a case to determine the rightful owner of the 180,000-carat Bahia Emerald, found in Brazil in 2001, will move forward—despite Brazil's claims it was illegally mined, reports the Los Angeles Times. Brazil had asked the judge to dismiss the case so it could negotiate the emerald's return with the US government, but no luck. At one time, eight people claimed ownership, but several claims have been dismissed over the years. The last remaining one is led by Idaho businessman Kit Morrison, who had the gem in his possession when police traced it to a Las Vegas vault in 2009.

But the history of the Bahia emerald is far more complicated than that, Bloomberg reports. The rock changed hands repeatedly before its confiscation, at one point ending up submerged in a New Orleans vault during Hurricane Katrina. It was also involved in plots with the Brazilian Mafia, along with a $197 million Bernie Madoff transaction, Fox News reports. It once went up on eBay for $75 million. Morrison finally ended up in possession, though another man—the guy who put it up on eBay, investor Larry Biegler—then called police to report it stolen, leading to its confiscation. And that's just a small sense of why it's taken six years to get this far. If Morrison is declared the owner, Brazil's hope of reclaiming the gem would be complicated, unless it's willing to pay up. "They have to pay to repatriate," says Morrison's attorney. "You can't just take it." (A "perfect" 100-carat diamond goes up for auction this month.)
 

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