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Indian gems found in Alps may be given to French climber

London, Sep 27, 2013 (PTI): 18:14 IST
Reuters Image. For representation only
An unnamed young French alpinist, who stumbled on a chest of Indian jewels while climbing a glacier in the Alps, may be given possession of the treasure trove worth 205,000 pounds if nobody claims it.

The shoe-box size metal container with emeralds, rubies and sapphires neatly packed into sachets, some marked 'Made in India', was discovered off Mont Blanc in the Alps.
The historic haul, valued by French jewellers at around 205,000 pounds, is believed to have belonged to someone on one of two Air India flights that crashed off the world-famous mountain in 1950 and 1966, killing over 100 people.

French authorities are now in the process of contacting their Indian counterparts to determine the jewels' rightful owners.

French media reported that if an owner is not found, under French law, the jewels could be given to the climber, who was not identified by the authorities.

French officials have praised the mountaineer's honesty after he immediately reported the find to local police.

"This was an honest young man who very quickly realised that they belonged to someone who died on the glacier. He could have kept them but he preferred to give them to the police," local police chief Sylvain Merly was quoted as saying by The Guardian newspaper.

Climbers in the region have frequently found debris and remains from the two Air India aircraft over the years.

Last year, two climbers on the glacier discovered a well-preserved bag of Indian diplomatic mail neatly marked "Ministry of External Affairs" that had been on the Boeing 707 flight from Mumbai to New York that crashed near the summit of Mont Blanc in January 1966.

That crash killed all 11 crew and 106 passengers, including the pioneer of India's nuclear programme, Homi Jehangir Bhaba.

The cause of the crash was never fully established but the mail bag, found 46 years later by a mountain rescue worker and a fellow climber in 2012, was handed back to the Indian government.

In 1950, another Air India flight, a four-motor propeller plane, crashed near the same spot, killing 48 passengers and crew as it was expected to land at Geneva. The jewels are thought more likely to have come from the 1966 crash.

Mont Blanc, hailed as one of the world's most beautiful mountains, has a history of dangerous storms and fatal avalanches.

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