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Courtroom dramas for the 180,000 carat Bahia Emerald -- one of the world's largest gemstones found -- begin, in a series of Los Angeles, CA, court battles over gem ownership and $400 million dollar worth.
There's even a rumored movie in the works, "Green Ice," about the fascinating life and times of the emerald that keeps changing hands. Eight men lay claim to the gem's ownership.
The Bahia Emerald was discovered only 9 years ago but traveled more than most people. The uncut, extremely rare emerald has changed hands numerous times and weighs in at an incredibly heavy 840-pounds. It's also had the most bizarre journey possible -- even surviving Hurricane Katrina. If cut, the emerald estimated to be at least 180,000 carats.
Discovered and dug up in Brazil in 2001, multiple people have laid claim to ownership of the giant emerald. Judge John Kronstadt has been assigned to the case of Anthony Thomas in the Los Angeles Superior Court downtown. Thomas claims he owns and bought the emerald from Brazilian miners -- for a mere $60,000.
What is known is that the Bahia Emerald has had an incredible journey -- at one point inhabiting a New Orleans warehouse for storage. That New Orleans warehouse, however, was flooded during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
The giant gem popped up on ebay at one point -- reportedly listed for $75 million dollars, potential seller unknown.
Holding the grand prize ticket for the first courtroom battle is Anthony Thomas, the guy who says he arranged to have the gem shipped back to the States -- but claims he was tricked, and thought the Bahia Emerald had been stolen so that it could be sold at a higher price to someone else.
Thomas claims the uncut gemstone disappeared after he turned it over to those who were supposed to deliver it to him at his U.S. destination. Attorneys representing other parties, who are also claiming the emerald, says its untrue -- that Anthony Thomas never took possession of the stone.
After two years in legal filings, and court proceedings that have just begun in Los Angeles -- and the true owner of the Bahia Emerald is yet to be known, but Anthony Thomas may well be booted from the running despite time to file legal objections.
The San Jose businessman's story, says Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John A. Kronstadt this week, is full of holes and contradictions. That's the tentative ruling anyway. The judge isn't buying Thomas' version and account that he'd supposedly purchased the emerald for $60,000 -- yet never made a telephone call to shipper Fed Ex, after Thomas says he was told the emerald had been stolen. It didn't help Thomas that no bill of sale existed -- or at least not one that can be of any proof. The emerald's bill of sale was supposedly burned up in a fire, years down the line.
So after its Hurricane Katrina trip, how did the LA County Sheriff end up with the massive gem? That part's just as bizarre and unclear -- except that it arose from claim of a robbery last December. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's office was called out in December 2010 -- to investigate on behalf of another lawsuit claimant, Larry Biegler. Biegler says the Bahia Emerald had been stolen from his Los Angeles, California, warehouse. It didn't turn up in California.
Next stop, and maybe the most traceable through the years, Idaho. The lead LA, California, investigator traced the gem of just under 1000 pounds, to two guys in Idaho who claimed that they in fact owned the Bahia Emerald. This time there were more gems involved. The two men in Idaho say they rightfully own the rare emerald, that it was collateral on diamonds they'd purchased from Biegler -- diamonds, they claim, that he never delivered. Somehow the Los Angeles Sheriff's department convinced the men to turn the gem stone over to legal authorities in California, who then collected it from a storage facility in Las Vegas.
In the meantime, the Bahia Emerald remains in a vault at the LA County Sheriff's Department -- until the gem's true owner is determined. And somebody better hope there's no accidental heist.