Thursday, May 31, 2007

 

Spain Sues Fla. Firm Over Treasure Find

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Local6.com
May 31, 2007

MADRID, Spain -- The Spanish government said it has filed a lawsuit in a U.S. federal court against a Florida firm over a shipwreck the company has found laden with a colonial-era treasure.

If the vessel was Spanish or was removed from Spanish waters, any treasure would belong to Spain, Spain says.

"Odyssey Marine Exploration has been requested in a letter to provide information concerning the identity of the ship and the material recovered, and has not responded with the details we were asking for," said Susana Tello, Culture Ministry spokeswoman.

"Spain has decided to go to (the) courts to claim its right in case the discovery is Spanish," she added. The lawsuit was filed in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday, Tello said.

Odyssey announced two weeks ago it had discovered a shipwreck it has code-named "Black Swan" and 500,000 gold and silver coins somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

It only described the ship as a 17th-century merchant vessel that sank about 40 miles off the southwestern tip of England. But the Florida-based company would not say exactly where the ship was or name it, citing security concerns, and said the site was outside any country's territorial waters.

Odyssey has said that the ship was not in Spanish territorial waters and was not HMS Sussex, a shipwreck that Odyssey recently got permission from the Spanish government to search for in the Strait of Gibraltar.

But Spain has called the new discovery suspicious and said the booty may have come from a wrecked Spanish galleon.

Tello said the Kingdom of Spain is represented by the U.S. law firm Covington & Burling, which has represented Spain over shipwreck cases before, including the recovery of material from two ships, Juno and La Galga, in a 2000 court case. The Spanish government won the case at that time.

Messages left early today at the law firm's office in Washington, D.C., were not immediately returned, nor was an e-mail sent to the firm's spokesman. A message and e-mail for an Odyssey spokeswoman were also not immediately returned.


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