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06/07/2009 05:17 PM ID: 79063 Permalink   

Court: $500 Million Shipwreck Treasure Found by US Company Belongs to Spain


US: Federal magistrate judge Mark Pizzo has ruled a treasure recovered by Odyssey Marine Exploration from a shipwreck in the Atlantic belongs to Spain. He has recommended that the 500,000 silver and gold coins worth $500 million be handed over.

Pizzo ruled that the treasure was recovered from the wreck of the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes and is covered by sovereign immunity - the principle that naval vessels belong to their flag nation regardless of age or location.

Odyssey has stated their intention to appeal but their share price has nearly halved. They claim that the evidence proves they found the treasure, not the ship.

    WebReporter: ixuzus Show Calling Card      
ASSESS this news: BLOCK this news. Reason:
"The debris field's location, coins, cannons, and artefacts persuasively match the Mercedes's historical record. That Odyssey, which set out to discover the Mercedes, found this mix strewn about in an area a few football fields square where the vessel met its explosive ending makes the conclusion even more compelling. ... International law recognizes the solemnity of their [the 200 sailors who died] memorial, and Spain's sovereign interests in preserving it. This court's adherence to those principles promotes reciprocal respect for our nation's dead at sea." - Magistrate Pizzo.

"The decision recognizes that there is a vital interest for the U.S. and Spain and other nations to respect the resting place of sailors who died at sea. The Mercedes is the Spanish equivalent of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. How can anyone think it would be OK to strip the site of valuables?" - James A. Goold, a lawyer for the Spanish government.

There is also some talk about Peru having a claim as the treasure probably originated there but Peru wasn't a sovereign nation at the time so it gets complicated.
  by: ixuzus     06/07/2009 05:26 PM     
thar be pirates in the US, yar, odyssey be a fine pirate vessel indeed, YAR.
the booty be ours, yar, har, har!
  by: HAVOC666     06/07/2009 05:38 PM     
  Finders keepers...  
  by: Zmethod     06/07/2009 05:48 PM     
  that makes sense  
Spain has a right to the silver they stole from Peru, which was probably mined by Indian slave laborers.
  by: gryphon50a   06/07/2009 06:15 PM     
According to maritime law, if I'm sailing in international waters under a U.S. flag and lose my mast and engine and am therefore dead in the water, if I get towed into port by another vessel, then my boat becomes the property of the other ship's owners. These are covered under rules of "Assistance and Salvage"

At least that's how it was explained too me by a retired Coast Guard Auxiliary rear admiral that I knew as a teenager.

My health isn't even a consideration in that process. I wonder how they reconcile these two apparently contradictory rulings.

@Zmethod: Agreed.

  by: VermiciousG     06/07/2009 06:15 PM     
  so let me get this right...  
if i see something nice at a graveyard i can take it?, even dig to the coffin the coffin and raid it.

after all finders keepers....

funny how theft is justified like that.
  by: HAVOC666     06/07/2009 06:24 PM     
The principle of sovereign immunity only applies to naval vessels as far as I can tell.

I don't think the principle of finders keepers should apply when you're essentially looting a war grave.
  by: ixuzus     06/07/2009 06:28 PM     
I believe this is a dashboard with all kinds of links regarding the history of this case ( I further believe this is the actual ruling mentioned in the source ( And this is a direct link to the PDF file contained therein (
  by: nicohlis     06/07/2009 07:07 PM     
  -Like gryphon  
Spain prob stole it from Peru, mined by indian slaves

Kind of complicated but maybe Spain could just pay these guys on the odyssey SOME money to leave it as they requested
  by: JayWar   06/07/2009 07:33 PM     
I'm only suggesting finders keepers in international waters. If we really want to nit-pick there's an awful lot of stuff in the Cairo museum (and most others) that needs to be reburied.
  by: VermiciousG     06/07/2009 07:51 PM     
A war grave? Perhaps not. But this was really more of a looting/pillaging expedition.
  by: VermiciousG     06/07/2009 07:54 PM     
If people are being paid NOT to take it.. can I have a cut? I won't go diving for any treasure in that area either!
  by: fuzz64   06/07/2009 08:08 PM     
  Spain's Legal Precedent  
Spain has told the court that the Sea Hunt case is a legal precedent in their argument to win the trearuse.In that case it said that La Galga and the Juno were found. The truth is they were not. The proof that La Galga was not found by Sea Hunt in 1997 is to verify a site buried under Assateague Island, United States soil. Spain has denied access by an archaeologist to that site.
  by: legaleagle   06/07/2009 08:13 PM     
in the the scenerio of interional cases of historical artifacts reburying them isn't necessary the answer. what places like the ciaro museum do is put those artifacts on display and preserve them namely in their culture of origin.

thats a far cry from a private foreign company pillaging it for profit, and essentially holding it for ransom, they are a legally accepted version of pirates and grave robbers, nothing more:
  by: HAVOC666     06/07/2009 08:25 PM     
  missed a few letters  
"interional" = international
  by: HAVOC666     06/07/2009 08:28 PM     
I'm afraid we're just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

I just feel like Spain is using some corpses to lay claim to monies stolen by them 400 years ago.

I just figure that the same laws should apply to me, you, the U.S. Navy, the Spanish government or the Cairo Museum.
  by: VermiciousG     06/07/2009 08:37 PM     
  AT: VermiciousG  
"I just feel like Spain is using some corpses to lay claim to monies stolen by them 400 years ago."

that can be debated but thats no excuse for the US to steal it either, either way, at that point its where its spain's or peru's...

``I just figure that the same laws should apply to me, you, the U.S. Navy, the Spanish government or the Cairo Museum.``

i don`t remember robbing graves being a right, if i did the equivelent to what they did i`d be in jail, no question about it... handing over the stolen goods would be the least of my concern at that point.

as far as i know the ciaro museum is deicated to THEIR OWN culture, using THEIR culture`s historical artifacts; that of ancient egypt... which has probably had at least a dozen changes in border in their 5+ thousands years..

and what they do isn`t the same as what the odyssey did, what the cairo museum is is no different than the museum of american history, expcept perhaps that in the american musuems cases some of those people or the direct descents might still be alive to dispute the claim.

robbing a foreign ship grave is piracy, robbing a foreign warships grave is historically considered an act of war... infact the technical name is privateer which is basically a legally authorized pirate.

funny how its A-OK for the US organizations and companies to be grave plundering pirates in the name of profits via outright theft.

though i suppose they fcould bjust take the ship hostage the next time it rolls around... thats more than fair for commiting a gross act of piracy (and not the kind the MPAA and the RIAA whine about but the old school all but exist version)... much like the spy ship that was off the coast of china, these countries should not be putting up with these gross violations by america and itsels companies or organization.... infact i think they should be considering things like this an act of war, which before the US become a super-power they would have, but ever since then the US has had the world over a barrel, not that it wasn`t raping parts of the world before that point... but i guess thats what empires do, and the US being the last empire is no exception.
  by: HAVOC666     06/08/2009 12:41 AM     
If Spain is so concerned about someone stripping the grave site of valuables then why don't we just throw all the coins back into the water? If Spain wants them so badly then they can go find them themselves.
  by: ronny_cordova   06/08/2009 12:47 AM     
That's what I'd do. Watch them start back peddling the point then.
  by: VermiciousG     06/08/2009 06:18 AM     
  Put it in a Museum  
Have Spain reimburse Odyssey for the recovery costs. Spain has made blood money twice for decades though. Mel Fisher had several not nice things to say about their government as do most treasure hunters. Spain has a track record of getting their gold. It may take centuries but their getting it. I mean, they know what is going on the second someone steps inside of their library to access shipping logs etc. They are smart enough though to wait until the hole is dug and the gold has been recovered to cry foul though.

As far as preserving of cultures go, I've always been a bit surprised at the lack of interest in studying and digging the history of their earlier cultures. If this gold was returned to Peru graves it would probably be stolen by local graverobbers which are a large source of easy income. Its a shame things have to be squabbled over this way but that is human nature once $ is involved lol.
Sorry about the lack of commas... the key is trying to die on me lol.
  by: MickPaddy   06/08/2009 02:30 PM     
  I find it stupid.  
200 people died and a limited substance - AN ELEMENT - is being considered to be left in a grave? Museums are nice. Preserve history. Lock away potential for important elements.

So many "rights" being thrown around. I guess there has to be some kind of system or it'd just be anarchy.

A system to each to protect emotions, memories, elements, useful stuff, useless stuff, pride, country, history.

It should just be simple. Protect human rights and not the inflated systems. I'm all for laws that keep you from robbing a grave so you don't hurt the feelings of the living. But gold at the bottom of the ocean and a country thinks it owns it? According to a human created system (not an innate system like human rights) - of course it does.
  by: LykosSN4   06/08/2009 07:31 PM     
What I meant was like a reward for finding it. How ever if it was found in international waters I think it's up to morals but belongs to the odyssy
  by: JayWar   06/09/2009 03:26 AM     
I agree with Ronny - here, you want the treasure? Go get it! Or at the very least reimburse the guys for the expense of finding it in the first place.
  by: Framtonm   06/09/2009 06:54 AM     
Salvage Rights , end of story..
These people should at least get a percentage. As they put in the time and money to find it. And if Spain was really interested, they would have done it themselves .
  by: steve2045     06/11/2009 11:39 PM     
Yeah, seriously. It's amazing how involved they became once all the work had been done.
  by: VermiciousG     06/12/2009 01:49 AM     
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