Treasure Hunter wants Spain Settlement
By Tom Brown
The head of a Florida
treasure-hunting company said he hopes for "a
collaborative solution" to his dispute with
Spain over the discovery of a shipwreck with a
multimillion-dollar haul of silver and gold.
Greg Stemm, chief executive of Tampa,
Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc,
insisted that his company has acted "in
accordance with all applicable laws," and that
the treasure it discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
was found outside any country's territorial
Stemm's comments were sent to Reuters by e-mail
The Spanish government is suing Odyssey on
grounds it is the rightful owner of the 17
metric tons of silver coins and gold the Florida
firm recovered last year. The government has
vowed to dispel any mystery about the shipwreck
in court documents it will file in Tampa on
Stemm said Spain may indeed have a legitimate
claim to the treasure, and that it may have come
from the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes y las
Animas, a Spanish vessel that sank in the
Atlantic in 1804.
He said that was just one working hypothesis,
however, and that Odyssey had so far not been
able to confirm the identity of any vessel
related to the shipwreck site and the treasure
it has placed in the custody of U.S. federal
If it were confirmed that the wreck site,
code-named "Black Swan," was that of the
Mercedes, Stemm said Spain would still have to
prove it was the owner of artifacts found at the
site and that it did not abandon them.
"...That is up to the judge to determine, and it
is the belief of our lawyers that Odyssey should
still receive a generous salvage award," said
In October, a Spanish warship intercepted the
company's treasure-hunting ship, Odyssey
Explorer, after it left the British territory of
Gibraltar and escorted it to a Spanish port.
Police arrested the ship's captain but released
him soon after.
NEAR SPANISH WATERS?
Stemm said "negative claims" about Odyssey
stemmed from a few individuals and some
"irresponsible media" reports, especially in
Spanish newspapers. He did not elaborate but
said he hoped that Spain would deny previous
claims the treasure was found in or near any
The $500 million price-tag placed on the
treasure was based on "media speculation" and
not any estimate made public by Odyssey, Stemm
More than half a million coins were recovered
from the Black Swan site, he said, adding that
the $500 million figure was extrapolated from
the average estimated per-coin value an
independent numismatist attributed to the first
6,000 coin specimens examined.
The coins, which are being held in a secure
undisclosed facility in the United States,
represent a wide range of dates, origins and
varieties, Stemm said.
"Odyssey always endeavors to collaborate with
governments," Stemm added.
"Currently, the ongoing litigation with Spain
provides a challenge to diplomatic relations,"
"We are hopeful that we will eventually arrive
at a collaborative solution that will serve both
Spain's interest in preserving maritime heritage
as well as Odyssey's mission to help restore
that heritage in a manner that is both
archeologically sound and in line with
international legal principles."