Spanish swoop on US to collect 17 tons of shipwreck treasure

Experts were inspecting and inventorying the coins and artefacts and were on track to meet the timeline he cited in court, Goold said Tuesday.

"We're on schedule," he said.

The exact storage location also hasn't been disclosed, but handling and conservation of the coins was performed by Sarasota, Florida-based Numismatic Guaranty Corp.

The treasure is believed to be from the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, a Spanish galleon with more than 200 people on board that was sunk in 1804 by British warships in the Atlantic Ocean while sailing back from South America.

Odyssey, which uses remote-controlled vehicles to explore the depths and bring the tiniest of items to the surface, argued that as the finder it was entitled to all or most of the treasure. The Spanish government filed a claim in US District Court soon after the coins were flown back to Tampa, saying it never relinquished ownership of the ship or its contents. A federal-district court first ruled in 2009 that the US courts didn't have jurisdiction, and ordered the treasure returned.

Odyssey argued that the wreck was never positively identified as the Mercedes. And if it was that vessel, then the ship was on a commercial trade trip – not a sovereign mission -at the time it sank, meaning Spain would have no firm claim to the cargo. International treaties generally hold that warships sunk in battle are protected from treasure seekers.

The company blamed politics for the courts' decisions since the US government publicly backed Spain's efforts to get the treasure returned. In several projects since then, Odyssey has worked with the British government on efforts to salvage that nation's sunken ships, with agreements to share what it recovers.

Source: agencies

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