Spain seizes U.S. treasure
ship at gunpoint
intercepts vessel believed to have collected $500 million
in booty Updated: 3:48 p.m. ET Oct
GIBRALTAR - A Spanish warship intercepted
a U.S. treasure-hunting vessel that it suspects took gold
and silver worth an estimated $500 million from a sunken Spanish
galleon, the U.S. crew said on Tuesday.
The Spanish Navy corvette blocked the Odyssey Explorer after
it left the British territory of Gibraltar and threatened
to open fire when the captain refused to let police board.
Police later arrested the boats American captain, Sterling
Vorus, a company official said.
The warship had escorted the boat, which belongs to U.S.
company Odyssey Marine Exploration, to the Spanish port of
Algeciras so police could carry out a search.
They threatened that we must obey or they would use
deadly force, Ali Nessar, a company representative on
the boat, told Reuters by phone.
We were forced at gunpoint to come to Algeciras.
The incident is the latest in a dispute dating back to May
when Madrid said Odysseys discovery of the treasure
trove might have come from Spanish waters or from a Spanish
galleon in international waters. In both cases Spain remains
the rightful owner of the booty, the government says.
Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration has said it has
legally discovered 17 tons of silver coins plus gold while
working on a wreck code-named Black Swan at a
secret location in the Atlantic Ocean.
It says the discovery was made outside of any countrys
Cameras, shone chips seized
Spanish Civil Guard Police boarded the vessel once it docked
in Algeciras, then escorted sailors off the vessel one by
one before arresting the captain, Nessar said.
Police allowed two engineers to stay aboard but seized cameras
and mobile phone chips from crew and journalists traveling
on the ship, Nessar said.
Police officials were not available to comment on the raid.
The Odyssey Explorer was making its first foray from Gibraltars
British naval base since May after a threat from Spain to
seize the boat if it left the territory.
Gregg Stemm, Odysseys co-founder and co-chairman, said
in a statement the firm was waiting for word from the judge
who ordered the inspection.
We had again invited Spanish officials to inspect the
Explorer in advance of our departure and they chose not to
take us up on it, he said. We are not sure what
the inspection of the Explorer is mean to accomplish.