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Asia Dive News : Malaysian wreck looters stealing artifacts worth millions

Following the lead of dive industry-endorsed scuba diving looters Leigh Bishop and Brad Sheard, criminal gangs are stealing artifacts worth millions of dollars from shipwrecks in Malaysian waters.

According to archaeologist Professor Nik Hassan, the area is rich with 'lost treasure' dating back to 500BC and artifacts from just one shipwreck can add up to $6.5 million, much of which shipwreck looters illegally sell via online auctions.

"They (the looters) are usually well-equipped with sophisticated tools to help them locate the wrecks and transport the artifacts, " said Dr. Hassan.  "We cannot stop people from scuba diving. It is also not wrong for them to go looking for old shipwrecks. But it becomes illegal when they find an artifact and smuggle it out."

Despite 'take pictures, leave only bubbles' green-wash, a small but strident group of wreck diving looters steal artifacts from shipwrecks under the guise of 'archaeological exploration', and aggressively compete for bragging rights, product endorsements and profits from the sales of stolen artifacts that are now on a par with those from smuggling humans and drugs.

"The vast majority of the global scuba diving community opposes shipwreck looting and underwater grave robbing," said CDS President Evan T. Allard.

"For scuba divers, every shipwreck is an underwater museum to be fully protected for our children, our grandchildren and all future generations of divers who will dive deeper and longer thanks to ongoing improvements in diving technology ," Allard added.  "It is absolutely imperative that we stop selfish looters like Leigh Bishop and Brad Sheard from exploiting and destroying sunken ships for their personal coffee table displays and under the table tax-free profits."