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Amazing that the Spanish still believe they own treasure that's been on the ocean floor for 500 years.

It was only theirs for a few months having belonged to the Aztecs or Mayans for centuries prior to that.
 

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sorry...which way did you say was up again?
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perhaps the spanish think it is part of there heritage albeit stolen from the aztecs in the first place...
men and their persuit of wealth and power .... thats what this boils down too everyone wanting a claim to the gold.
 

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I think it's quite funny. The ship has been in Gibraltar for a while knowing very well the Spanish would seize it at earliest opportunity. So they sent anything of use out by air, plenty of time to delete computer records and anything important. They then got a lawyer on board and left for this episode to happen.
 

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14-9-09
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Amazing that the Spanish still believe they own treasure that's been on the ocean floor for 500 years.

It was only theirs for a few months having belonged to the Aztecs or Mayans for centuries prior to that.
Exactly, the Spanish nicked it off the Inca, Mayan, Aztec empire's, the Brits nicked it from the Spanish (if the loot was actually lifted from the 'Merchant Royal'?) and then the yanks razz it out of our waters... its a mess, and the only way to sort it as far as I can see is to offer the whole lot back to the sun God K'nich-ahua, who just happens to be a personal friend of mine and I will make sure he gets it ASAP :angel:


A. Berk:)
 

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If anyone finds that amount of dosh it will be claimed by everyone, and his dog

by the way it's mine from a long lost relative who was on the merchant royal :)

Graham
 

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More yokel than local moi luvver
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Well i don't know about you but it's been a couple of hundred years since we last gave the Spanish a kicking, I'm feeling pretty refreshed and ready to have another go. If Turbs and Kirstie could keep an eye out for them from Plymouth were sorted.

Dave
 

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Amazing that the Spanish still believe they own treasure that's been on the ocean floor for 500 years.

It was only theirs for a few months having belonged to the Aztecs or Mayans for centuries prior to that.
I think you will find it's not quite as simple as that. It's all about enforcing international agreements and the Threaty of Paris. This Treaty ended the Seven Years War (including the North American hostilities thereof, known as the French and Indian War) which involved all the major European Powers of the day and was identified by Winston Churchill as the first “world war” due to its global scope.

What has the Treaty of Paris to do with Spain’s claim on the estimated $500 million in gold and silver coins recovered by Odyssey Marine and their high tech treasure hunters?

Everything. (Dramatic, eh?)

Since this first came to light I did a bit of reading and checking on international treaties and US court documents and I’ve read Sea Hunt vs. Spain (4th Circuit 2000) – a case that may weigh heavily upon the outcome of this battle.

In Sea Hunt, a marine salvage / treasure hunting company (Sea Hunt, Inc.) located two Spanish naval vessels, La Galga (wrecked in 1750) and Juno (wrecked in 1802) off the coast of Virginia (in the territorial waters of the state). Virginia and Sea Hunt worked together, with Virginia claiming sovereignty over the wrecks per US law, and then authorizing Sea Hunt to salvage the wrecks. Sea Hunt filed an action in Federal District Court, whereupon Sea Hunt was granted exclusive rights as salvor of the wrecks. At this point the United States and Spain both intervened in the case attempting to establish Spanish sovereignty over the vessels, citing the 1902 Treaty of Friendship and General Relations between the United States and Spain.

The 1902 Treaty of Friendship states that sunken vessels of the Nation are not abandoned by their sovereigns unless by an express act of abandonment — meaning that the mere passage of time is insufficient to imply abandonment. This also happens to be the standard international law on wrecked vessels: only express acts (including the refusal to file a claim) can cause a shipwreck to be considered abandoned.

Here’s where the Treaty of Paris (1763) comes in. The District Court had found that Juno had NOT been expressly abandoned, but that La Galga HAD been in the Treaty of Paris — and thus Sea Hunt had exclusive rights to La Galga. On appeal to the 4th Circuit, the Court examined the Treaty of Paris to check the District Court’s conclusion of abandonment, and found that the District Court had got it wrong:

As sovereign vessels of Spain, LA GALGA and JUNO are covered by the 1902 Treaty of Friendship and General Relations between the United States and Spain. The reciprocal immunities established by this treaty are essential to protecting United States shipwrecks and military gravesites. Under the terms of this treaty, Spanish vessels, like those belonging to the United States, may only be abandoned by express acts. Sea Hunt cannot show by clear and convincing evidence that the Kingdom of Spain has expressly abandoned these ships in either the 1763 Treaty or the 1819 Treaty of Amity, Settlement and Limits, which ended the War of 1812.

The 4th Circuit wrote that Sea Hunt, Inc., must show express abandonment by clear and convincing evidence, and that this burden was not remotely met when there was no mention of ships or shipwrecks in the relevant section of the 1763 Treaty.

I checked the Treaty of Paris myself, and I agree with the 4th Circuit. Here’s the relevant passage:

XX. In consequence of the restitution stipulated in the preceding article, his Catholick Majesty cedes and guaranties, in full right, to his Britannick Majesty, Florida, with Fort St. Augustin, and the Bay of Pensacola, as well as all that Spain possesses on the continent of North America, to the East or to the South East of the river Mississippi. And, in general, every thing that depends on the said countries and lands, with the sovereignty, property, possession, and all rights, acquired by treaties or otherwise, which the Catholick King and the Crown of Spain have had till now over the said countries, lands, places, and their inhabitants; so that the Catholick King cedes and makes over the whole to the said King and to the Crown of Great Britain, and that in the most ample manner and form. … It is moreover stipulated, that his Catholick Majesty shall have power to cause all the effects that may belong to him, to be brought away, whether it be artillery or other things.

There’s no way to wring an express abandonment of shipwrecks out of the treaty, especially considering the present-day governments of both Britain and Spain submitted formal Diplomatic Notes explaining their mutual understanding that shipwrecks were not intended to be covered (a fact the Court noted and gave near-conclusive weight). The 4th Circuit discusses this passage in detail, and finds nothing but support for the position that sovereignty in shipwrecks is retained.

In more general observations, the 4th Circuit notes:

Under admiralty law, where an owner comes forward to assert ownership in a shipwreck, abandonment must be shown by express acts. See Columbus-America Discovery Group v. Atlantic Mutual Ins. Co., 974 F.2d 450 (4th Cir. 1992). “hould an owner appear in court and there be no evidence of an express abandonment,” title to the shipwreck remains with the owner. Id. at 461. This principle reflects the long standing admiralty rule that when “articles are lost at sea the title of the owner in them remains.”

The wreck currently being salvaged — codenamed “The Black Swan” — by Odyssey Marine has only been described as a 17th Century vessel (by the AP on CNN — I can find no such reference on the Odyssey website). If so, this predates the Treaty of Paris by 60-160 years. Some important legal questions arise:

1.) Was this a national vessel (such as a ship of the Spanish navy), or a private vessel? (Claiming to have not yet verified the ship’s identity, Odyssey has been deliberately obscure about this — which may have several implications (see below)).

2.) If it is a Spanish naval vessel, did Spain do anything to expressly abandon the vessel either before, or in the Treaty of Paris (1763), or thereafter? (If not, it seems likely Spain would retain the rights in a Spanish naval vessel and its cargo.)

3.) Does the likelihood that this wreck is in international waters rather than the territorial waters of any Nation impact the ownership interests in this case? (I haven’t seen anything to indicate that it matters, yet.)

Odyssey, in its press releases, seems to rely on “salvage fees” as a backup plan if actual ownership of the wreck doesn’t pan out due to legal challenges. But Sea Hunt throws a major monkey-wrench into Odyssey’s idea of “salvage fees.” The Court writes:

We affirm the district court’s denial of a salvage award to Sea Hunt. The district court found, “It is the right of the owner of any vessel to refuse unwanted salvage. Sea Hunt knew before bringing this action that the JUNO [already salvaged] was a Spanish ship and that Spain might make a claim of ownership and decline salvage. . . . Because Sea Hunt had prior knowledge of Spain’s ownership interests and had reason to expect Spain’s ownership claim and refusal to agree to salvage activity on JUNO, Sea Hunt can not be entitled to any salvage award.” (my emphasis)

That has to be a horrifying passage to Odyssey Marine. So what happens to the $500M of recovered coins? The above passage could explain why Odyssey has been very slow to ascertain the identity of the wrecked ship, focusing instead on the removal of the loot. Their legal game-plan could be that they won’t run afoul of the above quotation if they didn’t know who might have a claim on the ship – and therefore they’ll avoid the empty-handed fate of Sea Hunt, Inc., and instead receive a salvage award.

To wrap up, I’ll say that having read Sea Hunt vs. Spain I’m very skeptical of Odyssey’s confident pronouncements in press releases on its ability to retain the treasure (or at least the lion’s share) in the legal arena. But I’ll continue to read on this issue and report more as I learn and hear more — my background is a little light on admiralty law. Any comments are, of course, welcome.

Sal
 
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Informative post Sal.

If the salvage has come from the Merchant Royal (AFAIK a UK ship) then would not the Treaty of Paris have to be applied against Spain? Ie, they should leave the UK's property alone?

Also if it is the Merchant Royal, do we then have an issue between the UK and an ex UK colony? What treaties might then apply? Are there any?

Adrian
 

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Informative post Sal.

If the salvage has come from the Merchant Royal (AFAIK a UK ship) then would not the Treaty of Paris have to be applied against Spain? Ie, they should leave the UK's property alone?

Also if it is the Merchant Royal, do we then have an issue between the UK and an ex UK colony? What treaties might then apply? Are there any?

Adrian
That would certainlly be the case but at the end of the day Odyssey is up poo drive without a paddle. Enforcing this could also have long reaching effects into other relationships with the US. If the US supreme court says "tough it's ours and Odyssey can keep it", which is unlikely but they may. US relationships would have to be viewed very differently in all other aspects. One thing would be sure is that Odyssey ships would be unwelcome in a great many ports and the bully boy US attitude would be established firmly. I have a lot of dealings with US law firms and I get everything they say written down and I even record all of their phone conversations. They have a wonderful habit of paraphrasing everything in order to twist what is meant for their own benefit. If a US lawyer makes any claims then I check it out and I ask for that claim to be put in writing. When comparing the written claim against the tape recording they say completely different things. Bit of a joke really. It's little wonder there are so many lawyer jokes in the US.

Anyway, getting back to the Merchant Royal. If it turned out to be the Merchant Royal which is the "Black Swan", we have to establish how the British Government is going to classify that vessel. Are they going to claim it as HMS Merchant Royal or is it just Merchant Royal a civilian ship? remember that the Bounty wasn't a Naval Vessel but the RN claimed it to be HMS because the captain was a "moonlighting" naval officer. Was the Merchant Royal on a mission for the monarch and as such sailing under the flag of the RN? Who was the commander at the time and what was his seafaring background? Was he a Royal Navy officer? If there is any Royal Navy claim on the vessel then it would almost certainly come under the Treaty of Paris. The same criteria would apply on a British vessel to establish claim as the Spanish claim.

Either way there's going to be a big arguement in the courts and I can't see it going very favourably in the direction of Odyssey.

The underhand way that Odyssey shipped the recovery to Gibraltar to avoid landfall in the UK just stinks. If they hadn't got anything to hide then why go to all the trouble of being vague and evasive. Why will they not let an independent perform an evaluation of the recovered coin?

As far as an issue between the UK and the USA I feel that treaties are torn up daily in order to suck up to GW Bush so this limp wristed government would probably let the US march all over it and take what they wanted.

Sal
 
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MustangSally;734200 The underhand way that Odyssey shipped the recovery to Gibraltar to avoid landfall in the UK just stinks. If they hadn't got anything to hide then why go to all the trouble of being vague and evasive. [/QUOTE said:
Hmmm, quite... and funny how they were happy to run in and out of Falmouth for several months - until they found something - then it's warp speed to Gib.

Berko
 

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Does'nt Gib still come under UK law anyway as it's part of GB?.
I have been known to be wrong before so i do standby to be corrected.

Dave
 

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Does'nt Gib still come under UK law anyway as it's part of GB?.
I have been known to be wrong before so i do standby to be corrected.

Dave
Gib law is roughly based on UK law, but it creates it's own laws. It gets more complicated at the European legal level. Usually because of the ways Spain wants things written when it comes to Gibraltar.
 

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Does'nt Gib still come under UK law anyway as it's part of GB?.
I have been known to be wrong before so i do standby to be corrected.

Dave

Gibraltar has a considerable measure of devolved government. The 1969 Gibraltar Constitution Order formalised the devolution to local Ministers of responsibility for a wide range of 'Defined Domestic Matters'. The Governor, the personal representative of HM The Queen, retained direct responsibility for all matters not specifically allocated to local Ministers. Most of the finanical laws are made and passed by the locally elected ministers wheras the EEC affairs are dealt with via London.

Sal
 

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Hmmm, quite... and funny how they were happy to run in and out of Falmouth for several months - until they found something - then it's warp speed to Gib.

Berko
It's pure greed. I'm sure if you went to the Spanish government with evidence that you've found the wreck and give an estimate of the value they would be only too happy to let you recover it for a percentage. That percentage can be negotiated as can most things. If they say "Sorry but you can't salvage it" then they know they're not going to find out where it is. It's a simple solution really. The US company just wanted it all. It's obvious they knew exactly what wreck they were on. They claim on their website that they have always worked within accepted archaeological practices so then they should know exactly what they had. They must think that we're all stupid. I know that my comments may sound anti American but they're not. I just think that the American big business and legal attitude to the rest of the world sucks. One of the American lawyers we deal with complained to a senior judge that we recorded all conversations with the US and we got a call from that judge. The partner involved just told him exatly that...... "No your honour.... We don't trust the American legal system and we certainly don't trust your lawyers".

Sal
 
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