MALACCA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Treasures said to be worth billions of ringgits are believed to be buried inside a cave on Pulau Nangka, a tiny island 17km off the coast here.
Among the items believed to be in the ancient treasure trove are chests of gold bars, a throne and royal regalia.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said the state government has given permits to two local companies to carry out excavation work under strict conditions set by Malacca Museum Corporation (Perzim).
"For now, they have only been authorised to collect pictorial evidence," he said.
Mr Idris said the treasures had been rumoured for centuries and there had been many attempts by treasure hunters, some of whom had used dynamite to blow up boulders to get to the cavern.
"It is not scientific, but locals believe there are mystical obstacles preventing the treasure from being taken," the chief minister said.
According to villagers, the buried cave is either protected by a curse or by spirits.
A small group of people reportedly got into the cave about 30 years ago, but none came out with even a single piece of bounty.
They reportedly came out dazed and in a trance-like state after claiming to have seen, among other things, more than 80 chests of gold.
It is learnt that representatives of the two companies that would be carrying out the excavation works for the state government had sought "spiritual help" before undertaking their venture.
Among the things that they "agreed to" was to get the consent of the current administration of the state and that the wealth be used for the benefit and betterment of the people.
Workers involved in the project have so far bored several 130mm diametre holes into the cave using high-tech equipment.
It is learnt that the latest progress report on the ongoing work was submitted to the state government last week.
Pulau Nangka is located about 4km from the state's main island of Pulau Besar, a popular tourist attraction and a Sufi pilgrimage site with ancient shrines, wells and mausoleums.
The rocky isle, measuring about 20ha, has a stretch of sandy beach with clear water surrounding it.
A coral reef nearby attracts occasional snorklers.