US firm to object to Spain claim to sunken treasures

5th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

The finder of the shipwreck treasures will file an objection to a US court ruling that the recovered property be returned to Spain.

Miami – Deep-sea explorer firm Odyssey is set to file an objection to a US federal court ruling that treasure recovered from a Spanish galleon wreck be returned to Spain.

"Odyssey intends to file an objection," said the Tampa, Florida-based company which announced in May 2007 it had found half a million silver coins and hundreds of gold objects somewhere in "international waters in the Atlantic Ocean".

"'Returning' the coins to the Spanish Government when they never owned them, defies logic and reason," it said in a statement.

The Florida court ruling on Wednesday found that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.

The court recommended dismissing the claim and said that property recovered by Odyssey should be returned to Spain.

For the court to find that "neither Odyssey nor the claimants who owned the property have any legal interest is just wrong," said Odyssey CEO Greg Stemm.

In September 2008, Spain's government maintained it had proof of the treasure's origin – that it came from the 1804 wreck of Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes.

The ship, which sank off southern Portugal with a massive cargo of gold and silver, is Spain's "historical patrimony and also constitutes the tomb of 250 seamen and Spanish citizens," the government argued.

The ship was covered under the principle of "sovereign immunity" that applies to ships belonging to states as well as to wrecks, and which bars "unauthorised intrusion or exploitation for commercial ends," according to Spain's culture ministry.

"This is clearly a case where there are many relevant issues of fact that have been disputed, including the issue of whether the Mercedes was on a commercial mission and whether the property recovered belonged to Spain," said Odyssey's top legal advisor Melinda MacConnel.

"I presume that the claimants in the case who assert ownership rights by virtue of the fact that their ancestors owned a portion of the cargo will join us in objecting," she said.

Stemm said Odyssey had "done everything by the book," and that he was "confident" the court would see "legal and evidentiary flaw's in Spain's claim".

AFP / Expatica

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