Tampa deep-sea salvagers Odyssey Marine Exploration are ratcheting up their fight with the Spanish government over a sunken treasure trove recovered three years ago.
Odyssey is taking a new legal tack in appealing a district court ruling to hand over millions of dollars worth of mostly silver from the so-called Black Swan find.
In an appellate brief filed in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Tampa, Odyssey argues that the district court used "flawed legal analysis" in dismissing its case and that the court misinterpreted the issue of sovereign immunity.
Spain's successful claim was based in part on arguing that it had rights to the wreckage of its sovereign warships and that, as a sovereign nation, it was immune from court jurisdiction. The treasure was aboard the Spanish navy frigate Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, sunk by a British squadron in international waters off Portugal in 1804.
In its appeal, Odyssey cites an appellate ruling in a Georgia case that indicates a sovereign nation, such as Spain, could not claim rights if it did not possess the salvaged goods. The Georgia ruling came shortly after the district court ruling against Odyssey last June.
"It's clear that Spain never owned the majority of the cargo here and did not have possession of them either," said Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey vice president and general counsel.
After the 2007 find, Odyssey flew the treasure back to Tampa in 550 white plastic buckets and stashed the coins in an undisclosed vault in Central Florida.