Sunken treasure awarded to Spain

By Michael P. Tremoglie | Sep 26, 2011

ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) -- A sunken treasure worth about $500 million was discovered by an American company has been awarded to Spain by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

The treasure-laden Spanish ship was located off the coast of Gibraltar in 2007. It had been sunk during a naval battle with the British navy in 1804.

Several parties made claim to the treasure. The company that made the recovery, Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc., the governments of Spain and Peru, and 25 individuals who were descendants of the sailors on the ship.

The federal district court, which heard the original case, ruled in favor of Spain, reasoning that a treaty between the United States and Spain guaranteed that sunken Spanish ships would remain property of Spain. The court also referenced a 2001 signing statement by President Clinton which stated, "(the United States) recognizes that title to a United States or foreign sunken State craft, wherever located, is not extinguished by passage of time, regardless of when such sunken State craft was lost at sea."

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed this stating, "It is uncontested the (the sunken ship) is the property of Spain."

The court granted the Spanish government's motion to dismiss the claim of the salvage company and awarded the sunken treasure to Spain.

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