WikiLeaks Cables: State Department Against Odyssey in Black Swan Shipwreck Case

by Darrin Lee Unser on December 17, 2010 · 6 comments

Spain v. Odyssey Legal DisputeSunken treasure and diplomatic back channel maneuvering are disparate topics one thinks of only in the fictional world of books or movies. However, those seemingly unrelated points have recently been focused on an American company that specializes in exploration and recovery of deep-ocean shipwrecks.

Odyssey Marine Exploration, based in Tampa, Florida, announced in May 2007 the discovery of the "Black Swan," a site located in the Atlantic Ocean which yielded over 500,000 colonial-era silver coins. Odyssey recovered the 17-ton treasure and imported it into the United States pursuant to U.S. law. However, the find resulted in contention between the company and several parties who felt that the treasure was rightly theirs.

Most notable among those seeking ownership of the massive find is the country of Spain which even seized two Odyssey vessels in the weeks following the Black Swan discovery announcement. Looking for a legal resolution, Spain filed suit in the United States claiming that the treasure was recovered from the Spanish ship known as the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, and therefore the property of the country. Odyssey obviously disputes that claim.

WikiLeaks Cables Suggest U.S. Offered to Help Spain Claim Black Swan Treasure

Queue the recent WikiLeaks releases for further Hollywood-esque material. Among the thousands of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables were several that indicated that a U.S. ambassador in Spain was willing to help the foreign country’s efforts against Odyssey.

The cables seem to indicate that the diplomat would share confidential customs reports prepared by Odyssey in exchange for the return of a rare painting to a couple in San Diego. The painting is currently on display in a Spanish museum but it has been suggested that it was originally stolen by the Nazis.

"To think that the United States would sacrifice Odyssey, a publicly traded American company with American tax payers, American shareholders for a painting is incongruous," stated Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey Marine Attorney, in an ABC Action News interview.

Even with the potential involvement of the United States government against Odyssey, the company still plans to pursue its position in the court system.

Odyssey indicates that it is unsure what ship the coin treasure originated from, labeling it only with the code-name of “Black Swan.” Further, the company argues that even if the recovered coin treasure was from the Mercedes, they do not belong to Spain because the ship was sailing for commercial purposes at the time of its sinking, thus voiding Spain’s claim. The matter has been slowly working its way up the United States court system, most recently in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit who announced it would hear oral arguments in the matter in February of 2011.

Melinda MacConnel re-iterated the company’s position on the ownership of the treasure.

“The vast majority of the property that we recovered was private merchant property. (It) never belonged to Spain,” said MacConnel.

Several other individuals have also made claims on the treasure as descendants of those who booked cargo transport onboard the Mercedes. They, however, have acknowledged Odyssey’s right to a salvage award.

The Guardian newspaper of London first reported about the cables on December 8, 2010.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Koichi Ito December 17, 2010 at 2:21 am

I think that Melinda MacConnel want to run for U.S. Senate or Governer of Florida! She just want to be famous, so she can run for president someday!! Melinda MacConnel is just like Sarah Palin, only care about herself!!

Jeffrey C. Wark December 17, 2010 at 10:23 am

Figures! Secret deals made with spain. This is to show how corrupt the Gov’s are. I’m an investor with Odyssey and a T.H. I hate these cabal Gov. and their
tactics. I hope Melinda MacConnel wins the case for Odyssey.

The Big Boss December 17, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Finders Keepers

Spain has a lot Nerve to Claim this Money, that they Stole From My Ancesters

As The Real Owner of this Coins, I say ” If you Find it you Can Keep it”

Every Coin In Every Spanish and English Ship was and still is stolen Money.

Defenition of Stolen ( Taken agains your will)

saruman December 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Koichi Ito:

You are an absolute idiot! Melinda J. MacConnel is an attorney for OMR and it is her job to represent her client, you partisan doofus. Even more outrageous than your ignorant comment is the fact that the Obama administration is taking sides with a foreign government over an American Corporation, in exchange for a painting for Heavens Sake.

DAVE December 19, 2010 at 8:04 am

I agree saruman!! Koichi Ito is a idiot!!!!! from the way he spells probably a illegal also.We need the goverment to back of and let the american people be free to run our businesses, not cave to the wishes of foreign countries. though this is typical behavior of the current administration.

Bruce A. March 7, 2011 at 10:00 am

Bravo Odyssey. I love the show and I love the explorer-spirit they embody. They’re very meticulous when they find human remains, showing a true respect for the work they do. That said, they’re also finding history on a daily basis. Big Boss, you’re right in my opinion. The 1600’s and early-mid 1700’s were the pirate/privateer’s era. They stole gold from one nation and gave to another for favor. it wasn’t shocking to find one pirate/privateer working for Spain, then switch allegiance to France or the Dutch. They worked for whomever offered the greatest reward. The Spanish claim to the treasure is greed, moreover the government’s back-handed dealings with the Spanish government over a private, American entity is appalling. I cannot stand political interference with some political motive. Allow a private company to continue their work! They’re not violating anyone’s sovereign rights. They’re not violating some nation’s claim to gold they 1) stole and 2) lost. It was lost for hundreds of years, and had the Spanish wanted it that badly, they could have done the same thing. now, they’re merely wanting to reap the reward of Odyssey’s hard work. If I were the judge presiding over this, I’d allow a SMALL portion of the gold/silver artifacts/coins to be given to Spain for museum acquisitions, but that’d be it. In fact, as a citizen, I’m now inclined to try and purchase coins Odyssey have for sale, and I’m looking to invest in their company. Bravo Odyssey. I commend you and watch every episode with baited breath, I can only hope to see more!

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