$500M Of Sunken Treasure Returns To Spain

February 25, 2012

[Updated] A $500 million haul of gold and silver coins salvaged from a Spanish ship that sunk 200 years ago is heading from the US to Spain after five years of legal wrangling.

US firm Odyssey Marine Exploration — co-founded by former Bermuda Premier Dr. David Saul — found the treasure in a wreck off Portugal’s Atlantic coast in 2007. However a US federal judge recently ordered Odyssey to return the coins to Spain, the last in a series of legal defeats for Odyssey Marine Exploration.

Tampa’s News 10 reports that two cargo planes loaded with tons of gold and silver coins departed MacDill Air Force Base yesterday [Feb.24]. ”The Spanish government, with help from U.S. officials at MacDill, wasted no time loading 17 tons of gold and silver coins aboard a pair of military aircraft,” they reported.

“The treasure arrives at its original destination Saturday, 208 years behind schedule,” said another Tampa news outlet. “Two Spanish cargo planes departed MacDill Air Force Base on Friday bound for Madrid with $500 million in booty once carried by a Spanish galleon that sank off the coast of Portugal in 1804. The treasure, weighing 17 tons, might be the richest shipwreck prize in history.”

Spanish Ambassador Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo said it was a victory not about money, but “for those Spanish Navy sailors who died on that fateful day. It’s our duty to end this operation successfully in their memory and tell them that their mission is completed.”

The Ambassador also said all of the treasure would be placed on historical display, and not melted down for money. “According to Spanish law it cannot be sold, so it will go to museums,” he said

Officials at Odyssey Marine, which spent $2.6 million salvaging, transporting and storing the treasure, will receive no compensation from Spain for its recovery of the coins.

The treasure is expected to arrive in Spain sometime this afternoon but for security reasons, officials would not say which military base in Spain will receive the coins. US media report that armed soldiers stood by while the coins were being transferred.

Update Feb.26: Reuters reports that the coins have arrived in Spain, and that there is still legal action pending as the Peruvian government plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to claim part of the cargo.

Update Feb.27: The Washington Post reports that, “Spain on Monday rejected Peru’s claim to a huge multimillion-dollar undersea treasure recovered from the wreckage of a ship that had left from Lima’s port more than 200 years ago.”

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Category: All, Environment, News

Comments (14)

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  1. The 411 says:

    Sorry it didnt work out for you Saul. $500M is a lot to lose out on. I just sold a house for $300K less than I paid for it and I am sulking due to the loss. But to have put up $2.6M and not even be compensated for these sunk costs. Tough one to swallow. Sure your innovative and entrepreneurial spirit will land you another opportunity soon.

  2. I'm just sayin...... says:

    “for those Spanish Navy sailors who died on that fateful day. It’s our duty to end this operation successfully in their memory and tell them that their mission is completed.”

    Hmmmm what about the millions they enslaved and murdered to steal that gold? Shouldn’t it actually go back to the places where it was plundered from?

    • Tommy Chong says:

      It would be hard to find true descendants of the Aztecs & Incas, the Mayans have been wiped out & the countries that have Toltec descendants have been turned into MS gang areas by the FBI. Yes I agree the gold should go back to the descendants of those it was stolen from but the problem would be how to get it into the right hands. Might be better to cash it in & give the money to a organization that truly would help the poor in Central & South America.

  3. Williams says:

    It would appear that David Saul is one senior who does’t need any land tax or vehicle exemption!!!! He had $2.6M to find bottom of the seafloor expiration so cerftainly he got $1000 to licence his car?

    • Capt Patchy says:

      Dr Saul is one of many shareholders in the Oddesey project ..in case you can’t figure it out. All of that 2.6mil did not come solely out of his pocket .

      And maybe the next time they find a load of booty they might claim to not know the identity of the ship at all … Just a suggestion … lol

  4. observer says:

    Why did Odyssey Marine Exploration seek a court junction in the U.S.A. when the artifacts where found not far from the south coast of Portugal’s shores? Why they didn’t go to a U.K. jurisdiction or a European counsel to seek ownership of their findings? Hmmm!

    Salvage law in international waters, as recognized by some English speaking countries, could award 90% of recovered treasure to the salvage firm. Spain claimed the entire ownership of the wreck and cargo, saying that it would pay no salvage award at all for the recovery because the cargo of the Mercedes would be protected by sovereign immunity, which supersedes admiralty law.

  5. Have a Cold One says:

    Wow, that is pretty crappy of Spain to not even repay them for their salvage fees.

  6. Down 'n' Dirty says:

    Even Saul has to render unto Caesar what indeed belongs to Caesar …

    • Tommy Chong says:

      The Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes was carrying stolen goods as (I’m just sayin) pointed out. So even if rendered under Caesar/King Carlos IV it should somehow especially since $500 million worth go back to the place it came from. If it has been ruled fair that Germany, Spain & Portugal had to give all the holocaust gold back to the Jewish population so it is fair that this gold goes for the good of Central & South America. Spain & America had a big hand in turning Central & South American countries into third world places so they should have zero say in where the gold goes. Spoils of war is an ignorant old world mentality which should be abandoned for more globally progressive thinking. If spain wants it they should pay Central & South America $500 million for it as it was melted down into coins from their sacred artifacts.

  7. God is Laughing. says:

    So many sayings come to mind. “Finders keepers.” “A thief from a thief makes God laugh.” I hope the spirits of the ancient haunts the thieves.

  8. Truth is killing' me... says:

    If Bermuda had it we still couldn’t pay off our debt that we’ve been put in. Just a thought.

  9. Freedom fighter says:

    This is what I think:
    The gold was found by Dr. Saul’s team,
    It must have been hard work to find it and to retrieve it.
    It was lost in first place so by the law of the sea
    it should be Saul’s to keep.
    I don’t think that is why it did it in first place so why do not
    reimburse the cost plus a finders fee by the people who want the gold,
    by doing this the Odiseey can go back and look for more treasures.
    I think this is fair, screw history and all the nonsense,
    What the Romans did in their time we would have the Italians pay half of the old world
    for ever.

    • trees says:

      I agree, if I was Dr. Sauls team I’d have sprinkled it all back in the ocean and let the Spanish find all for themselves…..piece by piece!! lol