World News

Spain says US govt backs Spain against Odyssey

MADRID (Reuters) - The U.S. government is backing Spain in its fight to win the return of a fortune in old coins from U.S. treasure-hunting company Odyssey Marine Exploratio, the Spanish government said on Tuesday.

Odyssey is protesting against the recommendation by a magistrate judge in June that it should hand over to the Spanish government nearly 600,000 silver and gold coins valued at some $500 million from the wreck of the 19th century Spanish warship Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes.

Magistrate Judge Pizzo’s report supported Spain but it was simply a recommendation to a U.S. district judge, who is now considering a final order.

Spain said it had again presented its arguments to Judge Steven Merryday and the U.S. government had presented arguments in Spain’s favour.

“The Government of the United States has ... presented to the U.S. court the official position of the United States in support of the interests of Spain,” Spain’s Ministry for Culture said in a statement.

Spain argues the treasure comes from the Mercedes, which was carrying treasure back from Peru when it was sunk by British gunboats off the Spanish coast in 1804.

Peru, which was ruled by Spain at the time the Mercedes was sunk, also filed for information with the Tampa court, saying the coins may be “part of the patrimony of the Republic of Peru.”

Odyssey has disputed there is conclusive evidence to demonstrate that the coins came from the Mercedes and says that the treasure legally belongs to the company.