A pearl thought to be worth $130 million is now in private hands in the USA after being spirited out of the Philippines.
The 81.5 pound pearl, believed to be the largest ever discovered, was shipped to the States, via Hong Kong, by Charlton Hollenbach, who claims he was acting on behalf of a local missionary worker.
It is unclear how the transfer was made, as such pearls should be registered at the National Museum of the Philippines, at which point it would become government property as a national treasure. It is unclear whether the export of the gem broke any Filipino laws.
It also bears an uncannily close resemblance to a giant pearl found in Palawan last summer. This gem was recorded as being 75 pounds and was said to be the largest ever discovered.
Mr Hollenbach said: “It’s almost impossible to pull off what we did. First of all, they are national treasures. You should go through the National Museum of the Philippines to get them certified. By doing that, they automatically become government property.
“To get this into the United States, I think we’re probably the first ones for this size to pull off what we did.”
The resident of Lewisburg, PA, said he was only acting on behalf of missionary worker Gloria Huetter, who claims she once worked alongside Mother Teresa. She says that the fortune will be used to help underprivileged people in the Philippines.
“I got a vision,” she said, “and I heard when I prayed along my bed, I heard the voice of God. He gives me more blessings, more than that. More than that, and that’s why I know it is a sign that I receive,” she said.
Mrs Huetter said she then approached Mr Hollenbach for help a few months ago. She declined to reveal where the pearl was found.
It is now being assessed by experts in New York.
In August, we reported (here) how poor fisherman from Palawan discovered a 75 pound pearl estimated to be worth at least $100 million.
It was said the man had found it years before, but then hidden it under his bed for a decade without confirming its worth.
Its value was eventually recognised by his aunt, after he asked her to look after it while he was moving house.