In Case of Sunken Treasure: WikiLeaks, Nazis, a Painting

Lawyers: US offered to trade Spain shipwreck gold for Nazi loot
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2011 8:34 AM CST
Odyssey co-founder Greg Stemm, left, examines coins recovered from the "Black Swan" shipwreck. The company has been fighting Spain in US court for the treasure.   (AP Photo/Odyssey Marine Exploration)

(Newser) – It's the stuff of movies: An American diplomat offered to help Spain regain $500 million in sunken treasure in return for its help in recovering a Pissarro painting allegedly stolen by the Nazis. Or so say lawyers for Florida-based treasure-hunting firm Odyssey Marine Exploration, who point to cables released by WikiLeaks in which the US ambassador to Spain describes talks over the treasure, recovered by Odyssey in 2007 from the wreck of a galleon off the Spanish coast, and a Pissarro painting now in a Madrid museum that a California-based Jewish family says was stolen from them by Nazis in 1939.

The ambassador to Spain noted that although the cases were separate, "it was in both governments' interest to avail themselves of whatever margin for maneuver they had," the cable states. The Justice Department is backing Spain in its effort to reclaim the treasure, but Odyssey has filed a motion based on the WikiLeaks cable calling for the government to declare its interest in the case and withdraw its filing in support of Spain, the New York Times reports. "The WikiLeaks cables are opening a window into the inner workings of international diplomacy for the general public, and it isn’t always pretty," Odyssey's chief executive says.

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