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Robert Trigaux

Odyssey Marine faces potential domino effect of multiple countries making claims on treasure



spanishcoinsodysseymarineap.jpg AP photo

Wake up and good morning. It's beginning to look like the real underseas treasure hunters are lawyers -- not companies like Tampa's Odyssey Marine Exploration. The AP reports that Spain, which has long hounded Odyssey Marine to return the mother lode find of 600,000 coins from the 200-year-old shipwreck frigate Nuestro Senora de la Mercedes, is asking a judge to force the company to hand over the last of the treasure.

Spanish military planes last moth flew home the bulk of the coins but Spain now wants the remaining artifacts Odyssey left in Gibraltar when it flew the coins to the United States in 2007.

So this is just one of those "what the explorers find the lawyers take away" stories, right?

Now comes Peru making claims that Spain is the culprit because it stole Peruvian gold to make the coins, minted in Lima (Peru) in the first place.

Spain, naturally, rejects Peru's claims. In this AP follow-up, Carmen Marcos, deputy director of Spain's National Museum of Archeology, says the coins were not only minted in Peru but also Bolivia, Colombia and Chile (which would seem to be an admission that the Latin America claims should be broadened?). She also says the claims are not about money but about history.

Of course...

Bottom line: This may be a troubling precedent for Odyssey Marine Exploration, which may find a more complex legal future when not only the country whose shipwreck it finds demands the return of treasure, but the countries "plundered" in the first place begin to take legal action that the valuable cargo is, ultimately, their own property.

Lately, Odyssey Marine's proved far more capable of losing money than finding it. In its latest earnings report out this week, Odyssey said it lost $16.2 million in 2011, a bit less than the $23.2 million lost in 2010.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times



[Last modified: Friday, March 16, 2012 7:13am]


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