Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Yo, ho, ho...

And a battle for the riches:

Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration created an international sensation Friday by announcing the recovery of more than 500,000 colonial-era silver and gold coins from an unspecified Atlantic Ocean shipwreck possibly worth $500 million (EUR 371.9 million).

....In England, it generated press reports that Odyssey had salvaged the wreck of the long-sought British vessel Merchant Royal, which sank in bad weather off England in 1641.

In Spain, the government said it was ''suspicious'' of Odyssey's find, given that it recently granted permission to the company to hunt for the wreck of the HMS Sussex in the Mediterranean Sea. Culture Minister Carmen Calvo said his nation will claim the loot if it turns out to be Spanish or was removed from Spanish waters

Odyssey stated definitively Monday that its so-called Black Swan project that yielded the riches was not the Sussex, which historians believed was laden with gold coins when it sank off Gibraltar in 1694.

Regarding the Merchant Royal, Odyssey was not confirming or denying anything.

....The Daily Mail in London asserted that the Merchant Royal treasure was ''stolen by Americans,'' who secretly spirited it back to the United States to keep Britain from making a claim.

Odyssey said again Monday that their recovery conformed with salvage laws, the site was beyond the territorial waters or legal jurisdiction of any country, and the coins were legally exported to the United States.

''We do believe that most shipwrecks that we recover, including the 'Black Swan,' will likely result in claims by other parties,'' the company said. ''Many will be spurious claims, but we anticipate that there might be some legitimate ones as well. ... It is the opinion of our legal counsel that even if a claim is deemed to be legitimate by the courts, Odyssey should still receive title to a significant majority of the recovered goods.''

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