Florida company might be in hot water with Spain over sunken treasure
The Associated Press
Posted May 20 2007, 10:51 AM EDT
MADRID, Spain -- The
Spanish government is investigating if a crime was
committed by a U.S. company that said it had found
$500 million worth of coins in an Atlantic Ocean shipwreck,
according to Sunday news reports.
Odyssey Marine Exploration, based in Tampa, Fla.,
revealed on Friday they had found hundreds of thousands
of colonial-era silver and gold coins in the wreck,
but didn't release details about the ship or the wreck
site, citing security concerns.
The Culture Ministry said it found it ``suspicious''
that the company didn't release those details, the
national news agency Efe reported.
Odyssey did say that the site is beyond the territorial
waters or legal jurisdiction of any country. Earlier
this year, Odyssey won permission from the Spanish
government to resume a suspended search for the wreck
of the HMS Sussex, which was leading a British fleet
into the Mediterranean Sea for a war against France
in 1694 when it sank in a storm off Gibraltar.
The Spanish Culture Ministry said those permissions
to the U.S treasure-hunting firm referred only to
exploration and not to extraction, Efe said.
Odyssey had already begun exploration work off southern
Spain for the British vessel but suspended it in 2005
after complaints from Spain.
The recovery is being attempted under a deal with
the British government, the first such public-private
arrangement for an archaeological excavation of a
Historians believe the 157-foot warship was carrying
nine tons of gold coins to buy the loyalty of the
Duke of Savoy, a potential ally in southeastern France.
Odyssey believes those coins could also fetch more
than $500 million.
But under the terms of an agreement, Odyssey will
have to share any finds with the British government.
The company will get 80 percent of the first $45 million
and about 50 percent of the proceeds thereafter.
Calls to the Spanish Culture Ministry on Sunday morning