LOS ANGELES – One of several people claiming ownership of an 840-pound emerald told a judge Friday that he is the legal owner of the gigantic gem after paying just $60,000 for it soon after it was unearthed in Brazil.
Anthony Thomas said he bought the so-called Bahia Emerald in 2001. Its appraised value is now $372 million, and numerous parties are claiming ownership.
Lawyers say the well-traveled stone has made stops during the past nine years in California, Las Vegas and New Orleans, where it was kept in a bank vault that was flooded during Hurricane Katrina, leaving the gem underwater for several months.
During opening statements at the trial to test the claim of Thomas, attorney Jeffrey Baruh said his client paid for the hulking rock in a straightforward transaction but was later tricked into believing the emerald had been stolen so it could be sold to someone else for more money.
"Mr. Thomas is the only person who has ever paid a cent for the Bahia Emerald," Baruh said.