Treasure hunters on trail of Austrian forest fortune

1st July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Treasure hunters descended on a forest in Austria's Tyrol region Thursday in search of millions of euros reportedly hidden there by a rogue German financial advisor, according to media reports.

In his 2002 trial, the financial advisor known only as Augustine G said the five million euros (six million dollars) of funds he had embezzled had been taken by a mafia organisation.

But private detectives recently told Austrian newspaper Tiroler Zeitung that it was in fact hidden in 15 hectares of forest near the town of Ebbs.

The investigators said the advisor may have hidden as much as 20 million euros, spread across other forests in mountainous Tyrol in the west of Austria, and in Germany's Bavaria region.

The mayor of Ebbs, Josef Ritzer, said the influx of visitors had "swamped" the small town of 5,100. Some enterprising individuals had cashed in on the frenzy by selling shovels.

According to Austrian law, treasure hunters would be allowed to keep 10 percent of the banknotes they find.

The financial advisor was arrested in 2002 after an amateur archaeologist found a suitcase containing 120,000 euros and documents near Ampass, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Ebbs.

The private detectives hoped the media frenzy would prompt the financial advisor, who was released from prison two years ago, to reveal where the money is hidden.

© 2010 AFP

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