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Author Topic: Spain awarded shipwreck treasure  (Read 1923 times)


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« on: 5 June 2009, 14:16:21 »

Thursday, 4 June 2009

A deep sea treasure-hunting company has been ordered by a US judge to hand over half a million gold and silver coins to the government of Spain.

The company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, raised the haul from a shipwreck in the Atlantic, suspected to be that of a Spanish naval vessel.
The Spanish government argued that the treasure formed part of the country's national heritage.
But Odyssey intends to appeal, saying it has a claim to the treasure.

This is just the latest round of a long-running and sometimes murky dispute, says the BBC's Steve Kingstone in Madrid.

The haul of coins - thought to be worth some $500m (£308m) - came to light in 2007, when Odyssey announced the recovery of artefacts from a wreck in the Atlantic. It kept the location of the wreck secret, in what it said was an attempt to deter looters.
The haul was brought ashore in Gibraltar and quickly flown to Miami - enraging the Spanish government, our correspondent says, which says the wreck is that of the Mercedes, a naval frigate destroyed by the British in 1804.

'Private property'

Just over a year ago, the Spanish government filed a suit with a federal court in Florida - where Odyssey is based - demanding the haul be handed over.
Late on Wednesday, a judge ruled that the court lacked jurisdiction over the case, and that the property should be returned to Spain under a principle known as "sovereign immunity".

Spain's Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde expressed joy at the decision.
"It's a very positive decision for the Spanish government and for all the Spanish citizens because it guarantees that this ship and the remains of this ship will come back to Spain, which was originally the owner of this ship," he told the BBC.
"I am pretty sure that Spaniards will have the opportunity to travel back in time and to have a chance to see this treasure."

But in a statement, Odyssey said it would appeal against the ruling.

previous report Thursday, 8 May 2008:

Spain claims shipwreck treasure

Spain says Odyssey Explorer took a piece of the country's heritage

The Spanish government has demanded that treasure salvaged from a shipwreck in the North Atlantic be handed over, claiming the sunken ship was Spanish.

Some 17 tonnes of gold and silver coins, worth $500m (£255m), was salvaged in May 2007 by a US firm.

Spain is suing the Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration, saying it is the rightful owner of the treasure.

A lawyer for the country said there was "multiple evidence" that the vessel was a famous 19th-Century Spanish galleon.

The sinking of the Nuestra Senora de la Mercedes by a British warship in 1804, off the Algarve, led the country to declare war on Britain and re-enter the Napoleonic Wars.

"The sinking of Mercedes was a pivotal event in Spanish and European history, and the site and its contents are the inalienable historical heritage and patrimony of Spain," the government said in documents filed with a Florida court on Thursday.

Collaborative solution

Odyssey Marine Exploration has kept the exact location of the site, nicknamed Black Swan, secret but says that it lies in international - not Spanish - waters.
It is the belief of our lawyers that Odyssey should still receive a generous salvage award, Greg Stemm, says head of Odyssey Marine Exploration.

Big business of treasure

But the Spanish government's lawyer, James Goold, said this was "irrelevant" because the ship is clearly a Spanish galleon.

In an interview with Reuters, the head of the treasure-hunting firm, Greg Stemm, said he hoped he could reach a "collaborative solution" to the long-running dispute with Spain.
He said however that even if the wreckage was identified as the Nuestra Senora de la Mercedes, Spain would have to prove both ownership and that it did not abandon it.

"That is up to the judge to determine, and it is the belief of our lawyers that Odyssey should still receive a generous salvage award," Mr Stemm said.

The Nasdaq-listed company argues that there is no conclusive proof that the wreck is that of the Mercedes and that even if it is, much of the cargo on board the ship belonged to private individuals and not the Spanish state.
"I'm confident that ultimately the judge or the appellate court will see the legal and evidentiary flaws in Spain's claim, and we'll be back to argue the merits of the case," said the firm's CEO, Greg Stemm.


could be interesting...

isn't there a maritime law that determines who owns a treasure found at sea?
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« Reply #1 on: 25 September 2009, 03:47:31 »

If I dug a really deep hole in the middle of a park and found a wallet full of money, I am not allowed to claim it as my own without a thorough attempt to find the original owner.
I presume the principle should be similar even at sea, even in international waters.

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« Reply #2 on: 25 September 2009, 07:02:23 »

The Spanish Government claimed it had sunk in national waters and the contestants in the process did not want to (or could not) lay proof to their claim that it had been sunk in international waters.

This fact was the fundament the decision was based on.


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