Spain forces treasure ship into port in battle over fortune in pieces of eight

(Guardian) - A Spanish warship forced a US treasure hunting vessel back into port at gunpoint yesterday as it tried to leave Gibraltar in the latest episode in a battle over what is claimed to be the world's largest recovery of treasure from the sea.

The Odyssey Explorer, a 250ft salvage vessel, was trying to leave Gibraltar, where it had been effectively blockaded for three months after Spain claimed a share of millions of dollars worth of gold and silver coins it had recovered. After setting sail, it was approached by a Spanish navy gunboat and civil guard patrol ship once it passed the three-mile "buffer zone" that surrounds Gibraltar and forced to turn round and head for the Spanish port of Algeciras . "We were forced at gunpoint to come to Algeciras ," said Ali Nessar , a company representative on the boat.

Following a stand-off, the boat was boarded and searched for information that Spanish authorities hope could lead to the site of the treasure.

The captain of the Odyssey Explorer, Sterling Vorus , was arrested last night for disobeying orders and was facing the night in jail.

The row centres around Odyssey Marine Exploration, run by Greg Stemm , the world's leading underwater treasure hunter. His company trawls the ocean's floors, looking for sunken treasure, which it then sells to collectors. Founded in 1994, its first major success came with the recovery of $75m worth of booty from the SS Republic, which sank off the coast of Florida in 1865. But now it has come up against the Spanish government in a diplomatic tussle that is costing the company millions of dollars in lost revenue.

In May Odyssey spirited away what it subsequently claimed were $500m worth of silver and gold coins that it found in international waters in the Atlantic Ocean. The coins were flown out of Gibraltar airport and are now sitting in an undisclosed location in Tampa, Florida, where Odyssey is based. The Spanish government believes they were transported with the complicity of the British and that the coins may belong to Spain. Odyssey and the governments of Britain and Gibraltar deny any foul play, saying that Odyssey flew the treasure out from the airport in full compliance with customs requirements.

Spain has filed a suit in Tampa against Odyssey to clarify the details of its discovery, to prevent future recovery efforts and to claim back what has already been discovered. But the company refuses to reveal specific information about the treasure, admitting only that it was found around 180 nautical miles west of Gibraltar. Mr Stemm argues that as "custodians" of the site - which Odyssey has named the Black Swan - they have a responsibility to protect it from other interested parties, including potential treasure hunters.

Mr Stemm says Odyssey is keen to "learn the name of the ship from which we removed the treasure," but that they may "never be able to establish [its] identity". Spain counters that the company's lack of transparency reveals their intention to make a financial profit from its national heritage. The coins are believed to be Spanish, but Odyssey argues that this does not necessarily mean that they came from a Spanish ship. The Spanish "real de a ocho " (piece of eight) was the international currrency of the day and could have ended up on any shipwreck, says the company, which has invested millions of dollars in their recovery.

There is debate over the value of the coins. In export licence applications made to Gibraltar in May the company valued the 500,000 coins at $2.5m (around $5 per coin), but in a press release put out by Odyssey in June, they said the coins may be worth $500m, or $1,000 per coin, making it the world's largest shipwreck recovery. Odyssey said it was not responsible for the higher valuation, based on calculations by an independent numismatist. But they did publicise the higher figure.

Spanish media reports suggest the boat from which the coins were recovered is the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, which sank off the coast of Portugal in 1804 after a battle with British warships. Down with it went more than 1m silver coins, plundered from Spain's American colonies. The treasure has entered into Spanish lore as the world's greatest sunken booty and the idea that it might have been whisked away has incensed politicians and journalists.

The battle is unlikely to be resolved on the high seas, but in the Tampa courtroom. Odyssey describes its work as "commercial archaeology" and says that, as the treasure was found in international waters, it should keep 90% of the proceeds. Spain's lawyer, James Goold , counters that " Spain has not abandoned its sunken property and it does not permit unauthorised salvage".

Nursing homes will be first to get COVID-19 vaccine in Spain
Nursing homes will be first to get COVID-19 vaccine in Spain
Airbus CEO says industry might need until 2025 to reach pre-crisis levels
Airbus CEO says industry might need until 2025 to reach pre-crisis levels
Turkmenistan offers business opportunities for Switzerland in number of fields
Turkmenistan offers business opportunities for Switzerland in number of fields
Loading Bars
Nursing homes will be first to get COVID-19 vaccine in Spain
Troops from Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan who took part in Karabakh conflict, return home (PHOTO)
Speaker of Azerbaijani parliament takes part in int’l conference initiated by Turkish parliament, PACE (PHOTO)
Any result that acceptable for Azerbaijan - acceptable for Turkey too, FM says
Volume of paid services in Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic down
Azerbaijan shows aerial footage of Shusha city (VIDEO)
Kazakhstan eyeing to develop information system for accounting of oil and gas condensate
Anglo Asian Mining's production of precious metals in Azerbaijan may decrease
Uzbekistan eyes to increase share of renewable energy sources by 2030
Airbus CEO says industry might need until 2025 to reach pre-crisis levels
Parliament's plan to increase subsides - costly for Iranian government
Ukrainian companies enter Uzbek commodity exchange
National Bank of Georgia reveals data on losses of commercial banks
Import of sugar and confectionery by Azerbaijan down
Demand for Turkish electrical goods on Kazakh market grows in 10M2020
Azerbaijan confirms 1,259 more COVID-19 recoveries
Bahar Azadi gold coin price again falling in Iran
Azerbaijan discloses data on destroyed houses in liberated Fuzuli district
Baku Media Center prepares video covering Armenian vandalism on occupied territories of Azerbaijan (VIDEO)
Russian president hopes for participation of int’l organizations in Karabakh conflict settlement
Power abuse by major states prevents resolving conflicts - Russian FM
Uzbek-Korean JV to buy electrical products via tender
Turkmenistan offers business opportunities for Switzerland in number of fields
North-South Corridor - on Iran's agenda - Minister of Roads and Urban Development of Iran
Turkish, Russian military personnel to jointly patrol in Nagorno-Karabakh - Turkish MoD
Azerbaijan shows footage from Abdal, Gulabli villages of Aghdam district (VIDEO)
Egyptian air operator enters Uzbek market
Uzbekistan to introduce changes to electricity payments in 2021
Iran assigns more funds to complete unfinished projects
Turkmenistan's Turkmennebit opens tender for purchase of equipment
Azerbaijan’s startup sector expects big investments
Iran's ten-month import of steel from Turkey drops
Tesla set to breach $500 billion in market value
State budget for 2021-2023 approved in Kazakhstan following amendments introduction
Kazakhstan's bitumen output exceeds 2020 plan as maintenance works held country-wide
Port of Baku reveals total 10M2020 cargo shipments
New railway vehicles put into operation in Iran
Iran`s Zarif to visit Moscow and Baku despite postponement
Kazakhstan looking to double renewables share in electricity production
Iran continues to cut reliance on oil revenue
Volume of container transshipment between Kazakh, Azerbaijani ports almost triples
LUKOIL refusing plans to construct giant petrochemical complexes
Iran, Qatar sign an extensive Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate cooperation
Switzerland names main trade statistics with Turkmenistan
Dry cargo transshipments through Baku port grow in 10M2020
LUKOIL says reducing oil exports to Europe is inevitable
Georgia receives new buses of modern standards
Georgian hazelnuts exports up
Georgia sees increase in export of tangerines
Ryanair wants to be 'at front of queue' for new 737 MAX order
Azercell’s Mobile Eye Clinic joins campaign for IDPs initiated by the UN (PHOTO)
El Al to launch Tel Aviv - Dubai flights next month
Kazakhstan’s third-quarter economic performance benefits from recovery of oil prices
Azerbaijan informs UNESCO, ISESCO about results of initial monitorings on liberated areas
Turkmenistan’s private sector participates in dev't of poultry farming
Iran discloses plan on creation of new jobs in Yazd Province
Destroyed Armenian positions firing at Azerbaijani army during recent hostilities shown (PHOTOS)
Central Bank of Azerbaijan discloses data from foreign exchange auction
CBI announces Iran's external debt
Azerbaijan starts to grow bananas - Azerbaijani Ministry of Agriculture
Azerbaijani servicemen help Armenians to move belongings from villages of Aghdam district (VIDEO)
PAYSIS expanding range of innovative services in Azerbaijan
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for November 24
E-Space reveals volume of EVs registered in Georgia
Azerbaijan discloses volume of tobacco harvested this season
Russian insurance agency to fund Uzbekistan’s hydrocarbon raw materials production
Iran to boost apple production
Georgia reveals volume of exported apples
Income of Chinese contractor of infrastructural projects in Georgia up
We were able to get necessary international support in key issue for us - President Aliyev
LUKOIL says $40/bbl is worst case scenario for oil prices
If we had not created necessary legal framework for resolving conflict, we could have faced problems today - President Aliyev
Iran registers order at COVAX to buy vaccine
Air traffic reduces in Georgia - EUROCONTROL
Second asphalt layer of Ashgabat-Turkmenabat highway being laid
Russian Export Center discloses value of support for exports to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan's import of limestone, cement down in 10M2020
Aghdam operation was part of our plans - President Aliyev
Kocharyan and Sargsyan, you have knelt before us - President of Azerbaijan
We will restore the city of Aghdam - President of Azerbaijan
No-one should worry, especially leaders of Western countries - President Aliyev
Pashinyan imprisoning captures all opposition, West remains silent - President Aliyev
Many times when I was on line of contact, in trenches, I thought that one day we would return - President of Azerbaijan
I said, Pashinyan, you personally must give us a timetable, you must do it yourself - President Aliyev
We have destroyed enemy in hand-to-hand battle, crossing ravines, forests, mountains, and liberated Shusha - President Aliyev
Precious metal prices in Azerbaijan down
Victory on battlefield made it possible to liberate Aghdam district without a single shot - President of Azerbaijan
Today, many developed countries studying our experience - President of Azerbaijan
Some int'l organizations did not want to reveal identity of occupier in documents adopted - President Aliyev
We do not depend on anyone, do not depend on any country, on any int'l financial institution - President Aliyev
New gas condensate storage facilities to be launched in Iran's Asaluyeh County
Uzbekistan’s largest import of wood products falls on Russia
Uzbekistan eyes importing electricity from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan
Uzbek-Korean JV to buy spare parts for analyzer via tender
Azerbaijan indicts Armenian ex-defense minister on another article
To those questioning support for Azerbaijan territorial integrity, I suggest they read UNSC resolutions - Former Romanian FM
Turkmenistan considering possibility of growing pistachios
EBRD provides Azerbaijan with loan to improve environment in Ganja
Georgia reports 3,128 new coronavirus cases
Uzbekistan’s gov’t ready to back Ipoteka-Bank
All news