Memorandum by Mr. R. W. Flournoy of the Office of the Legal Adviser to the Legal Adviser (Hachworth)

Purchase From the Colombian Government of the Foreign Italian Ships “Anteo” and “Rapallo

Mr. Hackworth: The attached draft telegram96 to the Embassy [Page 43] at Bogotá was prepared by Mr. Falck of IN97 in collaboration with Mr. Keith of EA.98 I went over the original draft with them this morning and suggested some changes, which have been embodied in this draft. I am informed that Minister Lane has read and approved the telegram.

I had no part in the earlier correspondence concerning the acquisition of the vessels by this Government. As you may know, these Italian tankers were seized by Colombian authorities when they were in the Port of Bogotá and turned over to the Colombian corporation known as the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros, which appears to be controlled by, and in effect an agency of, the Colombian Government.

As you will see, the attached telegram relates to the completion of the rather long drawn out transactions concerning the purchase of these vessels from the Colombian Government by the Government of the United States, through the payment of the purchase price already agreed upon, $1,500,000.00.99

It appears that the Colombian Foreign Office has been seeking to take the position that these vessels have never belonged to the Colombian Government. However, as I told Mr. Falck and Mr. Keith, it appears to me that it is necessary for us to take the position that the vessels belonged to the Colombian Government (although they were operated by the Federación) prior to their sale to the United States. Obviously the Federación had no right whatsoever to seize the vessels in the first instance, except as an agency of the Colombian Government. The latter had a right to take the vessels when they were in the Colombian port, although it will be necessary for the Colombian Government to give due compensation to the Italian Government. If the Colombian Government had never acquired title to the vessels it would not have been able to pass title to this Government.

As to the question of interest on the payment to be made, I agree with Messrs. Falck and Keith that (1) there is no obligation on the part of this Government to pay interest to the Colombian Government, and (2) the question whether any interest will ultimately have to be paid to the Italian Government can be settled later on. Needless to say, this Government cannot properly discuss the subject at the present time with the Italian Government directly or through the Colombian Government.

[A postscript concerning terminology follows here.]

  1. Missing from Department files.
  2. L. James Falck, Division of International Communications.
  3. Gerald Keith, Assistant Chief, Division of the American Republics.
  4. The contract was signed on July 30, 1943, and a check was forwarded by the War Shipping Administration late in September.