Lucona was an old ship sunk in the Indian Ocean on 23 January 1977 by a bomb planted by Austrian businessman Udo Proksch, as part of an insurance fraud. Proksch, the owner of the cargo, also then owner of famous Viennese confectioners Demel, claimed 212 mio. schilling (ca. US$20 million) from his insurance company, saying that the cargo was expensive uranium mining equipment. He was subsequently convicted in 1991 of the murder of six crew (of the crew of 12) who were killed by the explosion, and died in prison.
The Lucona was located by American shipwreck hunter David Mearns in 1990; his first very deep water wreck, at 4,200 metres. Working with Oceaneering International ROVs, he found that the ship had been sunk by a time bomb. While fraud had been suspected, investigations were obstructed by powerful Austrian politicians who were friends of Proksch. Eventually several ex-ministers were convicted over their involvement. The ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs was sentenced for forging documents authenticating the cargo. Two other ministers were dismissed for obstructing the investigations. The Minister of Defense Karl Lütgendorf, a shareholder in the Proksch firm, had given permission to deliver explosives to sabotage the ship and committed suicide when that became known.
Proksch fled to the Philippines in 1988 after Hans Pretterebner published a book about the scandal, and stayed with dictator Ferdinand Marcos, a personal friend. Returning to Vienna in 1989 incognito, he was recognized and arrested. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on March 11, 1991, and a year later the sentence was increased to life in prison. He died on June 27, 2001 during heart surgery.
Works about the Lucona case
- 1988: Hans Pretterebner published a book about the Lucona case, Der Fall Lucona.
- 1993: Der Fall Lucona a film of the book about the Lucona, starring David Suchet; see IMDb entry.
- Shelsby, Ted (1996-07-29). "Local firm brings clues to surface Oceaneering operates equipment used at TWA crash site". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- "The Lucona Affair". Chicago Tribune. March 15, 1989.
- "The Shipwreck Hunter (Mearns)" (PDF).
- "Photo of Lucona".