French workers kept buried treasure 'buried'

“If you find any treasure, be sure to tell me!” joked a French homeowner who could not have known how her words would come back to haunt her.

The three workers to whom she made the jest did in fact find treasure on her and her husband’s land in Normandy, and now stand accused of stealing it, according to a regional French daily.

The landscapers were reportedly levelling ground on the property northwest of Paris when they unearthed 900,000 euros (US$1.2 million) worth of gold, Euronews reported.

Rather than informing the couple of the find—16 gold bars, each weighing 2.2 pounds, and 600 U.S.-minted gold coins from the 1920s—the workers allegedly took the precious metal and sold it to a local coin collector.

Tax officials were notified when one of the men deposited high-value cheques, including one for 270,000 euros, into his bank account.

The workers, aged 20, 33 and 40 but otherwise unidentified, used the proceeds to buy cars or motorcycles and to invest in life insurance and home renovations, according to the BBC.

The three are said to have confessed to investigators and will soon appear—along with the coin collector, who denies any wrongdoing—at a court in the town of Evreux.

It is thought that the gold was hidden on the land for safekeeping during World War II.

Unfortunately for the couple, obtaining the bounty may take more time as French law states that if it has historical relevance, the state can hold it for up to five years, according to CNBC.

Further, French property owners are legally obliged to share treasure discovered on their land with those who found it.

The couple wish to remain anonymous and asked that further details of the events, which occurred some time ago, remain undisclosed.