Make us your home page

Odyssey Marine's treasure tangle with Spain moves to appeals court

A federal judge ruled this week that 500,000 antique silver coins found by Tampa's Odyssey Marine Exploration should return to Spain.

But Judge Steven Merryday's ruling isn't the last word in the legal wrangling over hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sunken treasure. The case now moves to federal appeals court in Atlanta.

Spain claims 17 tons of precious metal Odyssey recovered in 2007 from the 1804 shipwreck of the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes. The warship was en route from South America to Spain when a British warship sank it off the coast of Portugal.

Odyssey claimed possession of the hoard on the theory that the warship was acting as a cargo vessel by transporting 70 percent of the treasure for private 19th century owners.

Merryday rejected the argument.

"The ineffable truth of this case is that the Mercedes is a naval vessel of Spain and that the wreck of this naval vessel, the vessel's cargo, and any human remains are the natural and legal patrimony of Spain … despite any man's aspiration to the contrary," Merryday said in his court order this week.

Odyssey flew the treasure to Florida "without the consent of Spain and athwart venerable principles of law," Merryday said.

The coins are stashed under lock and key outside of Tampa, where they will stay pending the appeal.

In predicting victory in the higher court, Odyssey cited three famous sunken treasure salvage rulings decided on appeal. One was the Atocha, the Spanish treasure ship found near Key West by Florida treasure hunter Mel Fisher.

"Judge Merryday's ruling serves to move this case to the appellate court faster, where we feel confident that the legal issues are clearly in our favor," Odyssey chief executive Greg Stemm said in a statement.

James Thorner can be reached at or (813) 226-3313.

Odyssey Marine's treasure tangle with Spain moves to appeals court 12/23/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 9:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus


    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.

  2. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park


    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  3. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers


    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  4. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]
  5. Cooking passion spurs owner to pull open AJ's Kitchen Drawer


    TAMPA — After graduating from the University of Tampa in May 2016, AJ Albrecht spent four months traveling around Southeast Asia and Australia.

    AJs Kitchen Drawer offers a wide variety of unique kitchenware items, such as handcrafted knives and wooden items, as well as local gourmet products. Photo by Danielle Hauser