Spain promises hardline against US treasure hunters

17th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

17 October 2007, MADRID - (AFP) - Spain vowed Wednesday to take a hardline against a US maritime salvage firm that Madrid believes may have taken treasure worth millions from a sunken Spanish galleon earlier this year.

17 October 2007

MADRID - (AFP) - Spain vowed Wednesday to take a hardline against a US maritime salvage firm that Madrid believes may have taken treasure worth millions from a sunken Spanish galleon earlier this year.

Spanish Culture Minister Antonio Molina said Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration was made up of "modern pirates" and he warned that "against pirates, there have always been navies, laws and the state of law."

"We will pursue them wherever they are. It is a question of national pride and patriotism," he told reporters, adding the Nasdaq-listed firm "will not escape unharmed for what it has done".

The minister was speaking one day after Spanish police intercepted and searched a second boat belonging to Odyssey after it left the British territory of Gibraltar off Spain's southern tip.

The ship, the "Odyssey Explorer", was escorted to the southern Spanish port of Algesiras and its captain was charged of disobeying authority after he initially refused to allow Spanish police to search the vessel.

Captain Sterling Vorus told Britain's The Daily Telegraph that Spanish authorities threatened to use "deadly force" if he did not turn the vessel around to the port of Algesiras.

In July Spanish police intercepted and searched another ship belonging to Odyssey, the "Ocean Alert", after it left Gibraltar.

Police in both cases were acting on the orders of a court in the southern port of Cadiz which is looking into the origin of the sunken treasure.

The dispute began in May when Odyssey announced that it had found half a million silver coins, and hundreds of gold objects, somewhere in "international waters in the Atlantic Ocean".

The Spanish government argues that if the shipwreck was Spanish, or was removed from its waters any treasure would belong to Spain, and it has filed claims over the shipwreck at a Florida court.

But the marine salvage company says the fact that the coins have been identified as being Spanish does not mean they were found on a Spanish ship.

Citing security reasons, the firm has refused to disclose the exact location of the shipwreck, which it has nicknamed the "Black Swan".

Odyssey flew its 17-tonne haul from Gibraltar to its US headquarters in Florida in May.

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Subject: Spanish news

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