US court rules sunken treasure belongs to Spain
A US appeals court has ruled that treasure found on a ship that sunk more than 200 years ago and was recovered by a deep-sea exploration firm must be returned to Spain.
The Odyssey company found the ship, "Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes," at a depth of 1,700 feet (518 meters), loaded with the largest underwater treasure ever found, including 500,000 silver coins and hundreds of gold artifacts.
Since recovering the 17-ton haul in 2007, Odyssey has concealed the location of the wreck, referring to the site as "Black Swan."
The appeals court on Wednesday upheld the ruling of a lower court and said the ship belonged to Spain because it was a Spanish warship.
The Spanish embassy in the United States welcomed the decision, saying it was "clear and strong and fully in accordance with the principles we have presented from the start of this affair."
"Everything taken by the US company from our ship must be restored to our national custody in accordance with international law," it said.
The Florida-based Odyssey said it was "certainly disappointed" by the decision and would request a new hearing before the appeals court's full panel of judges.
The Spanish warship was sunk by British forces in 1804 as it was returning from South America.
© 2011 AFP