Legal proceedings that date back over two years continue in the dispute over recovered sunken coin treasure as lawyers for the company in possession of the treasure filed a new motion in the matter.
Odyssey Marine Exploration, based in Tampa, Florida, directed its legal team to file a Motion to Strike the amicus brief filed by the United States in support of Spain in the "Black Swan" case currently pending before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. If the court opts to not strike the brief, Odyssey seeks to have the court direct the United States government to amend its statement of interest to more accurately reflect its true position on the matter.
The motion is in direct response to several U.S. State Department cables obtained and recently released by the website WikiLeaks which indicated that the U.S. State Department was willing to offer assistance to the country of Spain against Odyssey. In exchange, U.S. diplomats were asking for help in the return of a painting now in a Madrid museum, but believed to be confiscated from its rightful owners by the Nazis in the 1930’s.
"We have brought to the Court’s attention the evidence suggesting that the involvement of the U.S. Executive Branch in the ‘Black Swan‘ case goes beyond its interest in interpreting applicable laws," states Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey Vice President and General Counsel.
"The U.S. Government’s interest appears to have been related to a promise of support for Spain in exchange for assistance in obtaining this painting for a U.S. citizen. This calls into question whether there may have been any other offers of support in exchange for favors completely unrelated to this case. Any interest in the case of the U.S. beyond those stated in their filing should warrant striking the amicus brief or at the very least, require a full explanation of the motives behind their support of Spain."
At stake is over 17-tons of recovered treasure including 500,000-plus Colonial-era silver coins, hundreds of gold coins as well as other precious metal artifacts.
"The possibility that someone in the U.S. Government came up with this perfidious offer to sacrifice Odyssey, its thousands of shareholders, and the many jobs created by the company in exchange for the return of one painting to one individual is hard to believe," stated Greg Stemm, Odyssey CEO.
"The WikiLeaks cables clearly show that we have worked cooperatively and transparently with both Spain and the State Department for many years, in spite of claims to the contrary. That fact makes the revelations all the more disappointing."
Odyssey had announced the find and recovery of the treasure back in 2007 from a site in the Atlantic Ocean off of the coast of Gibraltar. That announcement brought about almost an immediate response from Spain which has indicated it believes the wreck was that of the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a Spanish frigate sunk by the British in 1804.
Within weeks of the Odyssey announcement of the find, Spain seized two different Odyssey vessels and forced them to port for inspections. The country then turned to the U.S. legal system in an attempt to obtain ownership of the treasure which had been transported to U.S. soil. A district court sided with Spain and ruled the treasure over to country.
Odyssey is appealing the decision and pursuing its belief that even if the recovered coins and artifacts are from the Mercedes, which it states has not been proven, it would not legally belong to Spain as the ship was on a commercial voyage at the time of its sinking. Documents have been given indicating that most of the cargo was for private merchants, and not for the government of Spain.
The matter is scheduled for oral arguments by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals sometime during the week of February 11, 2011.