Spain and Britain at war again over 'lost gold'

8th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

8 April 2005, MADRID-The governments of Spain and Britain and a private U.S. salvage company are disputing billions of euros in lost treasure believed to be aboard the "HMS Sussex," which sank off Spain 311 years ago.

8 April 2005

MADRID-The governments of Spain and Britain and a private U.S. salvage company are disputing billions of euros in lost treasure believed to be aboard the "HMS Sussex," which sank off Spain 311 years ago.

The remains of the Sussex, a British ship that sank off the coast of Gibraltar in 1694, could hold the greatest underwater fortune ever found. It is estimated to be worth about EUR 3.5 billion.

The U.S. firm Odyssey Marine Exploration carried out four expeditions in the area from 1998-2001, discovering the remains of a vessel the British government believes to be the Sussex.

Experts say the vessel, resting on the Mediterranean seabed 800 metres down, was packed with gold coins, the value of which today is astronomical.

According to international law, the remains of sunken ships belong to the nation under whose flag it sailed, which is why anything recovered from the Sussex would - London says - be British property.

But the British Defence Ministry, which is in charge of the project, contracted the Tampa, Florida-based salvage company to recover the lost treasure.

The company's Odyssey Explorer vessel has special robots and other high-tech gear to carry out the recovery missions, as the wreckage is too deep for divers.

According to the agreement between the British Government and the U.S. company, which has invested several million euros in the venture, Odyssey Marine Exploration will keep 80 percent of the treasure of up to EUR 35 million, 50 percent if the booty found is worth EUR35-389m or 40 percent if the pot exceeds EUR 389m.

Britain would get the rest.

But while the British government and the salvage company have already divvied up the treasure, other interested parties are making a claim on the sunken goods.

The government of the southern Spanish region of Andalusia has also staked its claim to part of the treasure, arguing that the remains of the Sussex include archaeological riches that, resting in local waters, belong to the region.

The U.S. salvage company requested permission from the Spanish government to carry out the explorations, but Andalusia authorities maintain that it should have been up to them to grant or deny Odyssey Marine Exploration permission for the project.

The wreckage lies off Gibraltar, which is British territory but has no maritime jurisdiction.

According to Andalusia authorities, the British government and U.S. firm must prove that any treasure brought to the surface belonged to the Sussex, and not another of the many ships that sank in the area over the centuries.

The Sussex, which was leading a fleet of 13 ships, capsized in a violent storm in 1694.

It was said to have carried a large fortune to bribe the Duke of Savoy to side with England, Spain, Holland, Sweden and the Holy Roman Empire against France.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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