International

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U.S. lawyer James Goold is representing
the Spanish government

Spain Claims 200-Year-Old Sunken Treasure

May 12, 2008 01:40 PM
by Anne Szustek
Spain argues ownership of a naval ship shot down in 1804 and its $500 million of coins, found recently by a Miami diving company.

30-Second Summary

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Miami-based diving company Odyssey Marine Exploration announced in May 2007 that it had discovered a shipwreck in the Atlantic. The boat contained some 500,000 silver coins.

Odyssey Marine Exploration shipped the artifacts to the United States from the British protectorate of Gibraltar. According to a Voice of America clip, the company is keeping the exact location of the discovery a secret.

Spain maintains that the boat in question is the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, a Spanish navy vessel that had more than 200 passengers aboard when it was sunk by the British. Spain has filed a formal complaint with a U.S. federal court in Miami to recover the boat and its contents on the premise that warships remain the property of their flag country.

Jose Jimenez, the director general of Spain’s Ministry of Culture, told the AP, “We are talking about the … human remains of Spanish naval servicemen who died on board which have been illegally disturbed.”

UNESCO’s Draft Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, passed in August 2001, stipulates that shipwrecks submerged for more than 100 years “shall not be commercially exploited, and that “states parties shall ensure that proper respect is given to all human remains located in maritime waters.”

The sunken ship has also sparked an insider-trading dispute with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Ernesto Tapanes, an oceanographer doing consulting aboard the Odyssey’s exploration vessel, violated an agreement that forbade him from trading the exploration company’s stock. But he still bought up Odyssey stock, dumping it once the shares had doubled in price after the announcement of the discovery.

Headline Link: ‘Spain Lays Claim to Sunken Treasure’

Video: ‘Largest Shipwreck Treasure Find Ever’

Background: Insider trading; case to be used as precedent

Related Topic: ‘Dispute over Sunken Treasure Wages on 10 Years After Discovery’

Reference: Shipwrecks and maritime law

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