US Firm Must Return Sunken Treasure: Spain

'We want it all back,' navy official says of $500M in booty from 19th-century wreck
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2008 4:16 PM CDT
The 'Odyssey Explorer' is seen in the harbor of Algeciras, southern Spain, Tuesday Oct.16 2007.   (AP Photo/EFE, A.Carrasco Ragel)
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(Newser) – Spain filed evidence today in support of its claim it is the rightful owner of a shipwreck loaded with $500 million in treasure discovered and looted by a US exploration firm, the AP reports. The Spanish government identifies the wreck, whose identity has been disputed over the past year, as the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, sunk by a British warship in 1804.

"It is the property of the Spanish navy, government and people, and we want it all back," said the director of Spain’s cultural ministry. The government is arguing that the principle of sovereign immunity gives it claim to Spanish vessels, regardless of where they ended up—in this case, off the coast of Portugal. Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration had no immediate comment.