Skip to comments.$500 Million in Sunken Treasure Returning to Spain (Lawyers beat treasure hunters)
Posted on 12/26/2009 12:34:43 AM PST by tlb
MIAMI A U.S. district judge has ruled that U.S. treasure-hunting company Odyssey Marine Exploration should return to Spain a fortune in old coins recovered from the wreck of a 19th-century Spanish warship.
Judge Steven Merryday nevertheless directed that the return of the treasure to Spain be stayed until an appeals process in the case was concluded.
Merryday's order backed a recommendation by a U.S. magistrate judge in June that Odyssey should hand over to the Spanish government nearly 600,000 silver and gold coins valued at some $500 million that it recovered from the wreck of the 19th-century Spanish warship Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes.
Spain said the Spanish naval frigate was carrying treasure back from Peru when it was sunk by British gunboats in 1804.
Odyssey Marine, which has disputed the treasure came from the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, discovered wreckage and the 17-ton haul of artifacts in March 2007 in international waters.
"The ineffable truth of this case is that the Mercedes is a naval vessel of Spain and that the wreck of this naval vessel, the vessel's cargo, and any human remains are the natural and legal patrimony of Spain," Merryday said.
The Mercedes sank in the first few minutes of the Battle of Cape St. Mary's as an explosion ripped it apart, killing more than 200 sailors. The attack led Spain to declare war on Britain and enter the Napoleonic Wars on the side of France.
Peru, which was ruled by Spain at the time the Mercedes was sunk, entered the legal fray in August when it filed a claim for information with the Tampa court. The filing said the coins may be "part of the patrimony of the Republic of Peru."
(Excerpt) Read more at foxnews.com ...
You’d think there should be 33% finder’s fee, at the very least...
Yep! I see no reason the treasure seekers should not charge Spain for their services an amount equal the find. Certainly the judge if a liberal would have to agree since the would be “fair”.
This makes no sense! Over 200 years ago in international waters?
A hate America judge that should be removed.
This will only encourage treasure hunters to just make off with the stuff and sell it on the black market. No use doing it by the book and getting screwed over for their efforts.
Sure it does. War ships remain the property of the nation in perpetuity.
There are no salvage rights for warships.
Now on the other hand an argument I have thought about is that; is the Royal Spain actually the same nation as the Republic Spain?
If at any time the Republic Spain repudiated any debts incurred by the Royal Spain I think an argument could be made that they are not the same and the nation that was owner for that ship no longer exist and the ship is salvage.
This is pure bullsh*t.
The gold was looted from others, and the ship sank in international waters.
Spain has no more legal claim to this stuff than Swaziland.
This judge is just attempting to parade his PC credentials and show the world how “enlightened” he is.
Not so fast. This is going to appellate and, if necessary, the Supreme Court. And, that’s exactly where they wanted to go with it from the onset.
Nominated by President George H.W.Bush in 1992.
Correction to my above post, Judge Merryday was nominated in 1991 and confirmed in 1992.
Exactly. And if Spain was so concerned about the loot, they would have bothered to look for it. After 200 years of non-action, they gave up their claim.
If the salvagers lose the appeal, they should skip off with the loot and dump in the deepest trench in the ocean. Let Spain suck on that.
Who has confirmed that it is the Spanish warship Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes?
http://www.shipwreck.net/ We do not believe the Magistrate applied the correct legal analysis to the discussion of commercial activity, so we look forward to presenting our case that even if the coins recovered were once part of the cargo of the Mercedes, that ship was not entitled to the sovereign immunity enjoyed by warships on strictly military service under U.S. law and policy as well as under applicable international law. The Mercedes was serving a well-documented commercial - not military - purpose when she sank. More than 70% of the coin cargo aboard never belonged to Spain. Private individuals and merchants paid a freight charge to have their private property transported. Some of the descendants of these people have entered into this case to voice their claims. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act only applies to sovereign governments and their property and has been misapplied by this court, said Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey Vice President and General Counsel. We will file our notice of appeal with the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals within the required time and look forward to presenting our case in that forum.
For more information about Odysseys legal arguments in the case, please review Odysseys legal filings available here: http://www.shipwreck.net/blackswanlegal.php
pontiac is right...if higher courts reverse this it will be a reversal of quite a bit of precedence regarding warships
many cases already heard on this regarding foreign vessels and even CSA warships which the USN claims
what has made this so vexing now is technology has made heretofore unreachable wrecks reachable if the find is big enough
common sense would say that the wreckers deserve big compensation but so far that is not the case
even if you have grandpa’s gyro from a sunk military vessel the government could claim it and win
Take from the the "Black Swan"/Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, stored in a warehouse "somewhere" in Tampa.
Spain said the Spanish naval frigate was carrying treasure back from Peru when it was sunk by British gunboats in 1804. The Mercedes sank in the first few minutes of the Battle of Cape St. Mary's as an explosion ripped it apart, killing more than 200 sailors. The attack led Spain to declare war on Britain and enter the Napoleonic Wars on the side of France.
If the assh0le judge is gonna give it back to anybody, he should give it to the descendants of the Incas from whom Spain stole the gold in the first place.
Or, if he wants to be REALLY politically correct, have it melted down and placed back in the Earth - ‘Goddess Gaia’ - from whom the Incas “stole” it before the Spaniards stole it.
This decision is bull crap, and the judge is an assh@t.
You're right of course.
They should put it back then.
If this is not the most insane, asinine, legal ruling I've seen in my 66 years--and I've witnessed plenty--it at least is in the top 10.
Carrying this IDIOT, MOONBAT, Judge's contrived legal opinion to the extreme, anyone finding a $20 bill--or even a quarter--on the ground or elsewhere, would be legally bound to return it to its rightful owner (Uncle Sam) even if said legal tender, was discovered outside the US controlled borders or waters.
“This is going to appellate and, if necessary, the Supreme Court.”
I wonder how the “wise Latina” will rule ?
If this is not the most insane, asinine, legal ruling I've seen in my 66 years--and I've witnessed plenty--it at least is in the top 10.
No it is not.
The law is intended to discourage scavengers from looting war graves.
Do you want salvage divers sifting through the wrecks at the bottom of Pearl Harbor?
After reading Post 15 it may not be a perfect fit to this wreck but it is a good law.
Finders keepers. District Judge should walk plank yeasterday and be ignored.
It gets me to wondering if Judge Steven Merryday has had some ‘private conversations’ with someone in Spain about this case.
With even one percent of the recovered amount for Spain could be enough to retire on very nicely.
anglian wrote: “Who has confirmed that it is the Spanish warship Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes?”
..... Being a naval history buff, I’ve been following this story since it appeared over the summer. Given the locale of the search and the quantity and dates of the recovered coins, it is almost certain that the wreck was that of the Nuetra Senora de la Mercedes. This vessel was one of a squadron of four frigates of the Spanish navy transporting a large cargo of treasure to Spain from Montevideo. The squadron was intercepted at sea on the morning of 3 October 1804 (at which time England and Spain were officially at peace) by four British frigates about 27 miles from Cape Sta Maria on the Spanish coast. In the ensuing battle, the MERCEDES suddenly blew up and sank after about ten minutes of fighting. The remaining Spanish frigates FAMA, MEDEA, and CLARA were captured by the British and carried back to England.
According to the “Naval History of Great Britain” by William James:
“The cargoes of the three captured frigates, consisted of Vidona wool, cascarilla, ratinia, seal-skins, seal-oil, bars of tin, pigs of copper, dollars, and ingots of gold, and netted very little short of a million sterling. Therefore, as the Mercedes was similarly freighted, the total value of what had been shipped on board the squadron probably amounted to nearly a third of a million more.
Note: the above assessment of cargo value was made in the early 19th century.
The attorneys for the salvors have a quite valid argument that much of the cargo was not in fact the property of the Spanish government, but private property. My personal opinion is that, having made no attempt on their own to recover this cargo sitting 27 miles from their shore over the intervening period of 205 years, the Spanish government at the very least owes a VERY substantial finder’s fee. But the law pertaining to such matters is both murky and capricious: perfect waters for the legal sharks.
Peru’s venal coattail claim is perfectly laughable, considering that Peru did not even exist as a nation at the time of the loss.
- - -
I hope everyone had a happy Christmas. Best wishes to us, one and all, for a good New Year.
>>> Remember November <<<
NoLibZone wrote: “They should put it back then.”
..... There would be a certain perverse justice in that.
It should be *find treasure*--*put treasure into pocket**--go home with treasure** and screw anyone that wants to steal it fron you....
I can potentially see a booming business in boat portable gold smelting furnaces in the future if this stands.
Once the gold is cast into bars, no one will be able to prove where it came from. Sure you lose the historical value, but gold is gold and a good find could still net a tidy profit.
Have you had any dealings with the IRS lately. They tell you how much you owe them and even if you prove that what they say you owe is more than you make in 4 years they will seize all of your assets until you pay what they, arbitrarily, say ids theirs. It is clear that government sees all funds as theirs and only through their benevolence is anyone allowed to keep some scrap from the government table.
I thought the emancipation act was supposed to stop this but I guess slavery is only OK when the government does it.
OK, the next time anyone finds a Roman wreck, I guess the finds belong to the government of Italy...
Yup you nailed it!
The next big find will be kept private. No press. F em!
This ruling means that in the future, wrecks found in international waters will be secretly looted, with the cargoes sold off on the international collectors’ market with no publicity, instead of being explored by archaeologists. Vital chapters in human history will now remain unwritten.
I would not infect my buttocks by wiping it with a lawyer’s face. May all of these blood sucking maggots rot in gehenna forever.
If the Little Red Hen had been sued by all the other farm animals, this judge would have made her give up her bread to them.
In this “let’s be fair” generation. Let’s give Peru who lost it 25%. Spain who transported it 25%. The British who sunk it 25%. And the treasure hunters who found it 25%.
The other argument is that the cargo in this case was privately held and merely being transported aboard a naval vessel as freight. Admiralty courts have held that soverign immunity does not apply in such cases.
Of course, since Odyssey Marine won’t admit that the treasure comes from the Nuesta Senora de las Mercedes, then that line of argument is a little problematic.
The treasure almost certainly came from the Mercedes, which sunk when intercepted by British frigates. These frigates captured the other three treasure ships as they been ordered to do by the Admiralty. However, since Britain was not yet at war with Spain (war was declared shortly thereafter), the crews were denied their rightful prize money and the treasure from the captured vessels reverted to the British crown. Odyssey Marine can join those British Tars crying in their beer.
>>>However, since Britain was not yet at war with Spain (war was declared shortly thereafter), the crews were denied their rightful prize money and the treasure from the captured vessels reverted to the British crown.
CS Forrester wrote of this incident in one of his stories of Horatio Hornblower. In this version it was Captain Hornblower’s honorable decision to forego his opportunity for wealth as part of the prize-taking squadron that led to the British victory. Hornblower sailed into combat keeping Spanish reinforcements away but being over the horizon, would be ineligible for a share of the loot. Then of course, there was no prize money anyway as stated.
Patrick Obrian puts Captain Jack Aubrey in command of one of the intercepting frigates as well, but relates how Aubrey and the other Captains are deprived of their prize money. The Naval Chronicle provides interesting contemporary accounts of this incident. Prize money was an important factor motivating both officers and foremast jacks to advance the cause of Britain and the Royal Navy.
What utter BS. As if the Aztecs and Incas cheerfully signed over their rights.
One way to read this is govts vs. private operators. The govts are protecting each others’ interests, over those of ordinary people or private consortiums.
Utter BS. This is the movement toward global govt driving one more nail in the coffin of freedom.
It’s not feasible to discover and salvage deep water wrecks like this in secret.
This ain’t guys with SCUBA tanks on a coral reef off of the Florida Keys.
Can't be done on major deep water finds. You could just as easily keep a private moon shot secret.
That’s why I love this forum. I was frothing with anger when I read the article until I read your posts. I now understand the ruling. I may not agree, but understand. Thanks!
I like your thinking! (At least in this case!)
But I think the Spanish Navy (those pirates) put a destroyer next to the salvage ships some time ago, and have been “watching” them extremely closely ever since.
This ruling is asinine. To start with, the Spanish were transporting STOLEN PROPERTY, so if it should "go back" to anybody, it sure shouldn't be the thieves!
By the same logic, we would have to untangle every disputed property case going back to Cro-Magnon's taking the caves from Neandertals.
This ruling is nothing more than a "government protection racket," putting the found treasure into government coffers, and keeping it away from private hands.
And without those private hands, the Spanish govt would not benefit by even one single piece of eight.
The Spanish stole the gold centuries ago, and they are stealing it again today.
And that's a pretty good record for "legal theft!"
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.