Fight over Spanish treasure may have far-reaching implications

Fight over Spanish treasure may have far-reaching implications

Posted: Updated:

For more than 200 years, thousands of silver coins sat undisturbed on the ocean floor.

The treasure was being shipped by the Spanish government by the naval vessel Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.

The ship was lost in combat in 1804.

Then in march of 2007, using sophisticated sonar and magnetometer equipment Odyssey Marine discovered the huge fortune.

Odyssey kept the project a secret, recovering the coins and flying them back to Tampa International Airport under the cover of darkness.

The coins were then stored in a Tampa Bay Area warehouse, but soon became the focus of an intense legal battle.

Odyssey sited maritime law the keep the estimated half a billion dollars in silver.

The government of Spain maintained the treasure should be returned to them.

After six years of legal fighting, Spain won.

The Spanish government sent a delegation to Tampa and the coins were turned over to the delegation on the tarmac at Macdill Air Force base.

Washington D.C. based attorney Jim Goold successfully argued the case in federal court on behalf of the Spanish government.

Goold says, " I can't believe it even now that it took six years to put an end to this thing."

In a recent ruling Federal Judge Steven Merryday ruled that Odyssey had known that the treasure was from the Mercedes and that the company purposefully withheld the information, even when ordered to turn over relevant facts by a federal magistrate.

Merryday ruled, "As Odyssey knew at all pertinent times, Mercedes was a Spanish warship with a naval crew. When destroyed in 1804 at the start of a naval battle with hostile British vessels, Mercedes carried a huge cargo of silver specie from Peru toward Spain to assist Spain's war effort; she did so under orders from the King of Spain."

As a warship Spain has additional rights under maritime law.

Odyssey maintained the ship also hauled cargo, mail and passengers.

However Judge Merryday found, "Mercedes carried the civilian family of an officer serving on Mercedes and carried some mail and carried some miscellaneous civilian cargo, as was the practice in the day."

He went on to harshly criticize Odyssey saying, "Odyssey frivolously and in bad faith denied the existence and the identity of the vessel and, in furtherance of the bad faith denial, purposefully withheld evidence establishing beyond reasoned doubt the existence and identity of the vessel."

Merryday not only ordered the return of the coins, he fined Odyssey.

In an article for the Miami Law review Dave Werner wrote had a different opinion of the case.

Werner wrote, " The ruling focuses on sovereign immunity and ignores applicable maritime law. The ruling negatively impacts the future of the deep sea salvage industry."

Since the return of the treasure, Odyssey has successfully worked out a legal agreement with the British government.

In the summer of 2013, Odyssey recovered millions of dollars in silver from the wreck of the S.S. Garisoppa, a freighter sunk by a German U-Boat during World War II.

Attorney Jim Goold doesn't see an agreement like that in the future between Odyssey and Spain.

Goold says,"You're talking about a company that we have just finished going through six years of litigation that a, I use the district court words, were consistent of bad faith, purposeful withholding of evidence by Odyssey, dismissive conduct of Spain, contemptuous conduct, I don't think that creates much of background for a prospective partner."

Odyssey says they've moved on since returning the treasure.

Odyssey CEO. Greg Stemm says, "Considering the economic position that Spain and many other governments are in, our model of providing the best archaeological resources in the world while giving money to governments without any expense to taxpayers is finding a great deal of interest from an increasing number of countries."

Related Content: Odyssey Marine

 



  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • FL vehicle registration renewal fees drop

    FL vehicle registration renewal fees drop

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:49 AM EDT2014-09-01 10:49:59 GMT
    That little gift you get from the state on your birthday every year, to renew your car tag, is going to be cheaper starting Monday.  The cut will save drivers about $13 to $25 depending on the size of their vehicle.
    That little gift you get from the state on your birthday every year, to renew your car tag, is going to be cheaper starting Monday.  The cut will save drivers about $13 to $25 depending on the size of their vehicle.
  • Mold takes over St. Pete condo, creeps into neighbors' homes

    Mold takes over St. Pete condo, creeps into neighbors' homes

    Friday, August 29 2014 5:48 PM EDT2014-08-29 21:48:06 GMT
    Josephine Ramos is literally sick about the toxic black mold growing in the St. Petersburg condominium beside hers. She's been feeling ill for months with headaches and breathing problems. Recently, she had peak inside the condo next doors and couldn't believe her eyes.
    Josephine Ramos is literally sick about the toxic black mold growing in the St. Petersburg condominium beside hers. She's been feeling ill for months with headaches and breathing problems. Recently, she had peak inside the condo next doors and couldn't believe her eyes.
  • Lakeland neighborhood has continuing water problems, asks 8OYS for help

    Lakeland neighborhood has continuing water problems, asks 8OYS for help

    Friday, August 29 2014 5:03 PM EDT2014-08-29 21:03:34 GMT
    Some Lakeland residents are tired of wondering whether they'll have water at home. Over the past month, they tell 8 On Your Side that they've lost water with no warning at least five times. And what's worse, the water stays off for up to eight hours at a time
    Some Lakeland residents are tired of wondering whether they'll have water at home. Over the past month, they tell 8 On Your Side that they've lost water with no warning at least five times. And what's worse, the water stays off for up to eight hours at a time
  • NewsMore>>

  • Labor Day - more than just a day off

    Labor Day - more than just a day off

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:41 AM EDT2014-09-01 10:41:03 GMT
    While many people have the day off work, the day is actually meant to celebrate the achievements and contributions of American workers.
    While many people have the day off work, the day is actually meant to celebrate the achievements and contributions of American workers.
  • Two shot outside party in Tampa

    Two shot outside party in Tampa

    Monday, September 1 2014 3:59 AM EDT2014-09-01 07:59:20 GMT
    Two people have gunshot wounds after a shooting outside a party in Tampa early Sunday morning, Tampa police said. 
    Two people have gunshot wounds after a shooting outside a party in Tampa early Sunday morning, Tampa police said. 
  • Pilot dies in plane crash near downtown St. Pete

    Pilot dies in plane crash near downtown St. Pete

    Monday, September 1 2014 3:44 AM EDT2014-09-01 07:44:26 GMT
    Rescue boaters are on the scene of a downed banner plane near Albert Whitted Airport.Rescue boaters are on the scene of a downed banner plane near Albert Whitted Airport.
    The pilot of a banner plane that crashed into the water near Albert Whitted Airport has died, St. Petersburg police officials said. 
    The pilot of a banner plane that crashed into the water near Albert Whitted Airport has died, St. Petersburg police officials said. 

  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Fifteen People Arrested In Prostitution Sting

    Fifteen People Arrested In Prostitution Sting

    Thursday, August 28 2014 5:36 PM EDT2014-08-28 21:36:02 GMT
    The Escambia Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Unit conducted an undercover sting operation
    The Escambia Sheriff's Office Special Investigations Unit conducted an undercover sting operation
  • Bengals Put QB McCarron on Injured List

    Bengals Put QB McCarron on Injured List

    Sunday, August 31 2014 2:28 PM EDT2014-08-31 18:28:09 GMT
    The Cincinnati Bengals put quarterback AJ McCarron on the injury list Saturday as they got down to the 53-man roster limit, making the fifth-round pick ineligible to practice for the first six weeks of the season.
    The Cincinnati Bengals put quarterback AJ McCarron on the injury list Saturday as they got down to the 53-man roster limit, making the fifth-round pick ineligible to practice for the first six weeks of the season.
  • Operation Button Pusher

    Operation Button Pusher

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 11:14 AM EDT2014-08-27 15:14:28 GMT

    Three-year joint drug investigation in Baldwin County ends with 24 people arrested and sentenced to federal prison

    Three-year joint drug investigation in Baldwin County ends with 24 people arrested and sentenced to federal prison

Powered by WorldNow

555 Broadcast Dr,
Mobile AL 36606

Telephone: 251.479.5555
Fax: 251.473.8130
Email: news5@wkrg.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.