Wednesday, October 17, 2007

 

US treasure ship captain is freed

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BBC
October 17, 2007



The skipper of a treasure-hunting boat intercepted by a Spanish warship this week in a dispute over gold and silver from a sunken galleon has been bailed.

Sterling Vorus, the American captain of the Odyssey Explorer, was released by a judge in Algeciras, southern Spain.

The Spanish Navy blocked the salvage ship after it left Gibraltar on Tuesday and threatened to open fire when the captain refused to let police aboard.

In May, Odyssey found shipwreck booty estimated to be worth $500m (£245m).

After a tense standoff when it left the British port of Gibraltar, Spanish civil guards boarded and searched the vessel.

The Odyssey was then escorted to Algeciras, where the captain was arrested.

'Modern pirates'

Mr Vorus, who is accused of disobeying authority by resisting a judicial search of his vessel, has been freed on condition he present himself every fortnight to the judicial authorities.

Odyssey Marine Explorations - which owns the salvage ship - claims it found the 17th Century galleon in international waters.

But Spanish Culture Minister Antonio Molina on Wednesday said the Florida-based firm was made up of "modern pirates".

He told reporters: "We will pursue them wherever they are. It is a question of national pride and patriotism."

Madrid suspects the sunken treasure galleon may either have been Spanish or have gone down in Spanish waters.

The American firm will only reveal the wreck - codenamed Black Swan - is somewhere in the Atlantic and says it is keeping the location secret to deter looters.

Odyssey said it flew all of the 17-tonne treasure haul from Gibraltar back to Florida in May.
The salvaged trove includes half a million silver coins and hundreds of gold objects.

In July Spanish police searched another ship belonging to Odyssey, the Ocean Alert, after it left Gibraltar.


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