Not the Proper Authorizations...! Illegal Recoveries News
From Australian Government
Hundreds of ceramics illegally removed from a historic shipwreck have been returned to Indonesia.
333 ceramics from the Tek Sing shipwreck were returned by the Hon Tony Burke MP, Minister for the Arts in a special handover ceremony at the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra.
The Tek Sing, a Chinese junk ship, sank in Indonesian waters in 1822 with great loss of life. The shipwreck was discovered in 1999 and its contents were protected under the cultural property laws of Indonesia.
Our Movable Cultural Heritage team was notified of individuals selling Tek Sing ceramics online.
The objects were recovered with the assistance of the Australian Federal Police, Western Command, and assessed by experts from the Maritime Archaeology Department at the Western Australian Museum. The ceramics were formally seized under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 in May 2022.
The ceramics include bowls, tea cups and other dishes fired in the kilns of Dehua, China.
By Geneva Sands - CNN
The United States returned several stolen artifacts to France on Wednesday, including five gold bars from a 1746 shipwreck after a decades-long investigation led US federal agents to seize the items from an online auction in California.
Seven artifacts were transferred from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations to French Ambassador to the US Philippe Étienne during a formal repatriation ceremony Wednesday at the French Embassy in Washington.
The United States returned several stolen artifacts to France on Wednesday, including five gold bars from a 1746 shipwreck after a decades-long investigation led US federal agents to seize the items from an online auction in California.
Seven artifacts were transferred from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations to French Ambassador to the US Philippe Étienne during a formal repatriation ceremony Wednesday at the French Embassy in Washington.
At the time, a group of divers discovered the wreck and applied for a French permit to excavate the site. But the excavators ultimately looted the wreck site, according to Keller.
The French government indicted several of the excavators in the early 1980s, and it's been "chasing down these artifacts and the ingots from the vessel ever since then," he said.
The bars made an appearance in a 1999 episode of "Antiques Roadshow," when a woman presented the ingots and pieces of Chinese porcelain, claiming they had been found off the coast of Africa, according to Keller.
But it wasn't until years later that the bars resurfaced and Homeland Security Investigations federal agents got involved in the case.
From CBS News
A former deep-sea treasure hunter is preparing to mark his sixth year in jail for refusing to disclose the whereabouts of 500 missing coins made from gold found in an historic shipwreck. Research scientist Tommy Thompson has been held in contempt of court since Dec. 15, 2015, for that refusal.
He is also incurring a daily fine of $1,000. Thompson's case dates to his discovery of the S.S. Central America, known as the Ship of Gold, in 1988. The gold rush-era ship sank in a hurricane off South Carolina in 1857 with thousands of pounds of gold aboard, contributing to an economic panic.
Despite an investors lawsuit and a federal court order, Thompson, 69, still won't cooperate with authorities trying to find those coins, according to court records, federal prosecutors and the judge who found Thompson in contempt.
Thompson says he's already said everything he knows about the coins. Thompson pleaded guilty in April 2015 for his failure to appear for a 2012 hearing and was sentenced to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
But Thompson's criminal sentence has been delayed until the issue of the gold coins is resolved. After a federal judge ordered Thompson in 2012 to appear in court to disclose the coins' whereabouts, Thompson fled to Florida where he lived with his longtime female companion at a hotel where he was living near Boca Raton.
U.S. marshals tracked him down and arrested him in early 2015. Federal law generally limits jail time for contempt of court to 18 months. But a federal appeals court in 2019 rejected Thompson's argument that that law applies to him, saying his refusal violates conditions of a plea agreement.
From The Independent
A man on Cambodia’s southern coast was arrested for possessing almost 300 centuries-old earthenware jars that he is believed to have salvaged from a shipwreck an official said Tuesday.
Khieng Phearum, a spokesman for Preah Sihanouk province, said the 42-year-old man was arrested late Sunday after authorities determined that he was illegally keeping 281 small and big jars presumed to be legally protected antiquities at his home.
The man, who was still being interrogated on Tuesday, is an expert diver and had been spotted in the area of an underwater shipwreck in the Gulf of Thailand off the coastal city of Sihanoukville from which the pottery is believed to have been retrieved, Khieng Phearum said.
He said he did not know how the man retrieved the jars or how long they have been in his possession, but the authorities had become aware of his collection, and after observation, arrested the man at his home.
By Yonhap - Korea Herald
A man in his 60s has been arrested on suspicion of possessing ancient pottery that is believed to have been taken illegally from an underwater resting place off the southwestern coast of South Korea, police said Thursday.
The 63-year-old suspect, whose name was withheld, is accused of having hidden ancient Chinese celadon and other treasures retrieved in the 1980s from the Sinan underwater relics burial site in waters off South Jeolla Province in violation of the Act on Protection and Inspection of Buried Cultural Heritage, police said.
The man is also suspected of having attempted to smuggle some of the treasures into Japan for sale, according to the Daejeon Metropolitan Police Agency.
Police detained the suspect March 20 and seized 57 ceramic objects from his home in Seoul and other places.
The police and the Cultural Heritage Administration launched a joint investigation last February after obtaining intelligence indicating that the suspect was trying to sell stolen treasures in Japan.
An investigation has launched into the fresh allegations of looting from a number of British Second World War wrecks in Asia. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was "very concerned" to hear claims that remains of four ships lying off the Malaysian and Indonesian coasts have been targeted.
The Mail on Sunday said HMS Tien Kwang, HMS Kuala, HMS Banka and SS Loch Ranza were targeted for their metal. The sunken wrecks are thought to be the final resting place for hundreds of Royal Navy sailors and civilians from WW2.
It comes after six wrecks, including Royal Navy battleships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, were feared to have been damaged or destroyed by scavengers. Mr Williams said the Government "absolutely condemns" the unauthorised disturbance of any wreck containing human remains.
"I am very concerned to hear any allegations of incidents of Royal Navy wrecks being plundered in the Far East," he said.
HMS Tien Kwang, a submarine chaser, and HMS Kuala, an auxiliary patrol vessel, were carrying hundreds of evacuees when they were attacked by Japanese bombers near the Indonesian Riau Islands on February 1942.
A crown court in Newcastle, UK has sentenced a Dutch salvage company to a fine of nearly $320 million for illegally scrapping a WWI-era shipwreck in the Celtic Sea.
In August 2016, the Royal Navy vessel HMS Severn was on patrol around the Isles of Scilly when she was tasked to investigate the movements of the Dutch-registered salvage ship Friendship. Severn's crew found the Friendship lifting steel and copper from the bottom with a grapple. This scrap came from the wreck of the SS Harrovian, a steamship that was sunk by a German U-boat during WWI.
The Severn launched a boarding party, and when the crew came aboard the Friendship, they found that the vessel's master did not have a salvage license for the $115,000 in metal on board. They put a scratch crew together, impounded the vessel and sailed her to the port of Fowey, where she was handed over to the UK Maritime Management Organization.
Prosecutors pressed charges against the Friendship's captain, Walter Bakker, and shipowner Friendship Offshore BV for three unlicensed salvage operations at the wreck site. In the course of the trial, Bakker admitted that he did not have the relevant marine licence and showed how he had manipulated the vessel’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) in order to avoid detection.
After an 18-month trial, the prosecution won their case and secured steep fines and penalties for the owner. The master also received a small fine of about $2,600.
From Connor Boyd - Daily Mail
A pair of shipwreck divers who stripped thousands of pounds worth of metal from a sunken World War One ship have been jailed.
Kent Police said Nigel Ingram, 57, and John Blight, 58, of Winchelsea, East Sussex, looted a Royal Navy vessel - HMS Hermes - at the bottom of the English Channel in 2014.
The protected 19th century cruiser was converted into an aircraft ferry and depot ship ready for the start of the First World War but was sunk by a German submarine in the Dover Strait in October 1914, causing the loss of 44 British lives.
A jury at Canterbury Crown Court found both men guilty of fraud for not disclosing the recovered items in order to make a financial gain. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Ingram, who was convicted of four counts of fraud and one count of money laundering, was jailed for four years.
Two men took items worth thousands of pounds from a wrecked Royal Navy warship in the English Channel, a court has heard. John Blight, 58, and Nigel Ingram, 57, are accused of failing to declare artefacts taken from the First World War wreck HMS Hermes.
They are both on trial at Canterbury Crown Court charged with dishonestly failing to disclose items of a wreck to the Receiver of Wreck with intent to make a gain. Prosecutor Ian Hope told the jury on Monday that both defendants were involved in "commercial exploitation of shipwrecks" by selling historical artefacts, often as scrap.
The pair hauled "huge" pieces of wrecks from the seabed using winching equipment on Blight's boat, he added. They "deliberately and dishonestly" failed to declare them to the authorities, as they were legally obligated to do, Mr Hope said.
About 100 artefacts were seized by authorities from Ingram's home, including ships' bells, a torpedo hatch, launch panel, metal ingots and chinaware.
They were allegedly worth a total of about £80,000 and had not been reported to the authorities. Some £16,000 cash was found in a safe at Ingram's home, the court was told. Similar wreck items were also found at Blight's house, Mr Hope said.
A French scuba diver allegedly saw a piece of machinery which "had signs of being dismantled" on the HMS Hermes in September 2014. When he dived the wreck the following day the item was gone, the court was told.
By Sinisa Lukovic - Balkan Insight
When the Austro-Hungarian cruiser Zenta, the first ship sunk in the First World War, plunged to the bottom of the Adriatic Sea near Petrovac, more than half of the ship’s crew went down with it.
When it set out from the port of Tivat, accompanying the destroyer Ulan on a mission to blockade the Montenegrin port of Bar, the cruiser was already a veteran vessel, pulled out of the reserves. Obsolete, slow and poorly armed, it was an antique among modern ships.
Zenta sank during a battle with the more powerful fleets of France and Britain on August 16, 1914 – and the site of the shipwreck lay undisturbed until divers discovered it in 2001.
Treasure hunters followed soon enough.
Dragan Gacevic, a well-known diver from Herceg Novi and author of the book and documentary TV series Montenegrin Undersea [Podmorje Crne Gore], told CIN-CG/BIRN that thieves soon got to work.
“It is unbelievable that in the meantime someone tried to steal the main compass from the command bridge of the Zenta. That wreck is 73 meters down, and a special gas mixture, the so called trimix, is needed to dive to such depths – which goes to show that these thieves are up for anything,” he said.
By Joseph Brean - The Province
Scuba-diving pirates have ransacked a 1915 shipwreck that contains the embalmed body of a Montreal socialite philanthropist, along with stores of gold and treasure that were being shipped to Canada for safety as Europe fell into war, according to an Irish marine biologist.
Blood-stained canvas hammocks that were used by wounded Canadian soldiers on board the ocean liner Hesperian have surfaced over the past few weeks in the waters off Ireland’s southern coast, suggesting the century-old wreck has been recently disturbed.
This follows the discovery by fishermen in their nets of brass taps and water pipes, which have been reported to Ireland’s heritage ministry, and are being preserved by Kevin Flannery of the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium in Ireland.
“There is obviously interference with the wreck because all that stuff would have been washed away in the last 100 years never mind one bad storm,” he told The Times of London. “These are pirate treasure hunters with no respect for the dead.”
A mysterious ship, which refused to make radio contact and did not have an automatic identification system, has been seen near the wreck site, with no clear reason for being there, he said.
“I think they obviously blew the ship to get at the safes or whatever they were looking for,” he said. “It’s grave robbing.”
By Natali Pearson - ABC.net
This figure is an astonishing escalation from the handful of wrecks already known to have been damaged or destroyed.
Japan has lost the most wrecks. Other nations affected include Australia, America, the Netherlands, Britain, Germany and Sweden. However, sources close to the issue suggest that the figure may be much higher still, with one Chinese company claiming to have salvaged over 1,000 wrecks in the South China Sea.
It is now a race against time to protect these wrecks and preserve the histories they embody. Museums can play a key role.
For instance, exhibitions such as the Australian National Maritime Museum's current Guardians of Sunda Strait testify to the continuing resonance of these ships' stories even as the sites themselves are destroyed.
This exhibition, which looks at the WWII loss of HMAS Perth and USS Houston, is made more poignant by the fact that HMAS Perth, in particular, has been heavily salvaged in recent years.
The emotional echo of the stories of courage and sacrifice told here — such as that of HMAS Perth veteran Arthur Bancroft, who was shipwrecked not once but twice, and USS Houston's Chaplain Rentz, who insisted a young signalman take his lifejacket after the ship sank — is amplified, not diminished, by the accompanying contemporary tragedy.
From Yahoo News
A British father was arrested in front of his family at a Turkish airport after trying to bring home 13 historic bronze coins he found while snorkelling on holiday.
Toby Robyns, 52, was arrested at Bodrun airport on Turkey’s Aegean coast and could face up to five years in prison if convicted of trying to take artifacts out of the country. Mr Robyns, an ambulance driver from Southwick, West Sussex, told police he had no idea it was against the law to take the coins.
"We were on a daily tour. When our boat stopped I took my goggles and dove into the water. There were broken ceramics in the sea. When I cleaned the sand off with my hand I saw the coins. I never thought that carrying them would be a crime,” he said, according to a Turkish police statement.
Police said the coins were 800 years old and were found when Mr Robyns put his luggage through an X-ray machine at the airport.
Mr Robyns’ wife, Heidi, and two young sons returned to the UK while he was reportedly taken to a prison in Milas, around 30 miles away. Mrs Robyns declined to comment when reached at the family home near Brighton.
The family had been on a two-week summer holiday in Bodrun Mr Robyns has not been charged with a crime but is likely to be held in prison until prosecutors make a decision.
Turkey’s judicial system is on an August break, meaning that Mr Robyns could face several weeks in prison before any decision is made. He appeared before a magistrate’s court the day after his arrest but will need to appear before a higher court if he is charged.
He could face between three and five years in prison if convicted of smuggling historical artifacts, according to the BirGun newspaper.
Par Thierry Peigné - France Info
Une ou des épaves, afin d'en remonter des objets historiques ou de l'or ou de l'argent, c'est sans aucun doute ce que recherchaient les occupants d'un voilier britannique dans la chaussée de Sein en début de semaine.
Une pratique interdite sans autorisation préalable du département de recherches archéologiques subaquatiques et sous-marines (DRASSM), et à laquelle la marine nationale et les douanes ont mis fin mardi 20 juin.
L'interpellation a été réalisée alors que le voilier britannique se trouve à une vingtaine de milles nautiques (37 kilomètres) dans l’ouest de la chaussée de Sein.
C'est dans cette même zone que l'Egypt, un paquebot anglais, a fait naufrage le 20 mai 1922. C'est alors qu'il effectuait une liaison entre Londres et Marseille, avant de rejoindre Bombay, que le vapeur est entré en collision avec un navire français.
A son bord, 340 passagers et membres d'équipage mais aussi des tonnes d'or et d'argent (4500 kilos d'or en lingots, quarante trois tonnes d'argent et trente sept caisses contenant 165000 souverains anglais). L'épave gisant à 120 mètres de profondeur, il faudra attendre une dizaine d'année avant que sa précieuse cargaison ne soit récupérée à 90%.
10% pourraient donc encore se trouver dans les entrailles du navire, attisant ainsi la convoitise de chercheurs de trésors.
C'est ce lundi 19 juin 2017 après-midi, lors d’un vol de surveillance maritime effectué par un avion des douanes, que l’attention de l’équipage a été attirée par le comportement inhabituel du voilier, le Ice Maiden.
Le lendemain, mardi 20 juin, en vol de surveillance maritime, le Falcon 50 de la Marine nationale relocalise le voilier dans la même zone. L’équipage interroge le navire sur ses activités et effectue des prises de vues attestant du remorquage par le voilier d’un engin immergé dans l’eau.
By Sarah Ann Harris - Huffington Post
Two men have been charged in connection with the alleged removal of items from a sunken Royal Navy warship in the English Channel.
John Blight and Nigel Ingram are accused of failing to declare items to the Receiver of Wreck from HMS Hermes, a protected cruiser built in the late 19th century and converted into an aircraft ferry and depot ship ready for the outbreak of the First World War, the Press Association reported.
It was sunk by a German submarine in the Dover Strait in October 1914 with the loss of 44 lives.
A Kent Police spokesman said: “Officers from Kent Police’s rural task force launched an investigation in August 2015 after being informed that a number of historical artefacts had been reported missing from the wreck.”
Blight, 57, of Winchelsea, East Sussex, has been charged with three counts of dishonestly failing to disclose items of wreck to the Receiver of Wreck with intent to make a gain. Ingram, 56, of Teynham, Kent, has been charged with the same three counts in addition to being in possession of £16,000 worth of criminal property.
By Oliver Holmes and Luke Harding - The Guardian
Three British ships and a US submarine that sank in the Java Sea during the second world war have been destroyed by illegal scrap metal scavengers, the Guardian can reveal.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence said it condemned the “unauthorised disturbance of any wreck containing human remains” and requested Indonesian authorities investigate and take “appropriate action”.
The commercial salvaging of war wrecks has caused significant upset among veterans, historians and governments who want to preserve the final resting place of sailors who went down with their ships.
A preliminary report from an expedition to document sunken ships, seen by the Guardian, shows that the wrecks of HMS Exeter, a 175m heavy cruiser, and destroyer HMS Encounter have been almost totally removed. Using equipment that creates a 3D map of the sea floor, the report showed that where the wreck “was once located there is a large ‘hole’ in the seabed”.
A 100m destroyer, HMS Electra, had also been scavenged, the report found, although a “sizeable section” of the wreck remained.
The 91m US submarine Perch, whose entire crew were captured by the Japanese, had been totally removed, the report said.
All four sank during operations in the Java Sea in 1942, when Japanese forces overpowered Dutch, British, American and Australian sailors. The battle was one of the costliest sea skirmishes for the allies during the war and led to the Japanese occupation of the entire Dutch East Indies.
The Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the British government had contacted Indonesian authorities to express “serious concern” and request they investigate and take “appropriate action to protect the sites from any further disturbance.
By Merrit Kennedy - NPR
Three Dutch shipwrecks dating back to World War II have mysteriously disappeared from the sea floor, Dutch defense officials say.
The three warships were sunk by the Japanese during the 1942 Battle of the Java Sea, near the coast of Indonesia.
In 2002, amateur divers found the wreckage, where 900 Dutch and 250 Indonesian-Dutch soldiers are buried. A team of divers recently went down to shoot footage of the wrecks prior to the 75th anniversary of the deadly battle, Dutch Navy spokesperson Paul Middelberg tells The Two-Way.
"They dived for the wrecks to find that the wrecks were gone," he says. Using sonar, the divers were able to see the imprints of the missing ships on the sea floor.
The remains of HNLMS De Ruyter and HNLMS Java are completely gone, the Defense Ministry says, while a large portion of the HNLMS Kortenaer is missing.
The ministry says that as the final resting places of soldiers killed in battle, they are seen as war graves and desecrating them is a serious offense.
An investigation is trying to solve the mystery of why the wrecks disappeared, Middelberg says.
He declined to speculate out of respect for the families of the dead. "We don't want to give misinformation or half information," he adds. "We want to find out what happened and come out with that message." This comes on the same day
The Guardian reported that the wrecks of three British ships and a U.S. submarine in the same area have been "destroyed by illegal scrap metal scavengers." The newspaper says it was able to obtain 3D maps of the seabed, which show large holes where the ships used to be.
"The commercial salvaging of war wrecks has caused significant upset among veterans, historians and governments who want to preserve the final resting place of sailors who went down with their ships," the Guardian adds.
By Kim Palmer - Reuters
A U.S. judge is keeping a former treasure hunter in jail for again failing to answer questions about the location of 500 commemorative gold coins from the discovery of a 19th century shipwreck, prosecutors said on Monday.
Thomas "Tommy" G. Thompson, 63, of Columbus, Ohio, was arrested in 2015 and jailed because he failed to appear in court to disclose the whereabouts of the gold coins discovered in 1988 in the wreck of the SS Central America.
Last December, Thompson was sentenced to one year of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and 208 hours of community service, but the sentence was not to take effect until he revealed where the coins were.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley of Ohio found Thompson in contempt of a court order in a civil lawsuit over the treasure, said Jennifer Thornton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Columbus.
Marbley also continued a daily fine of $1,000 until Thompson reveals the location of the treasure, Thornton said. Thompson's lawyer could not immediately be reached to comment.
Thompson told the court last December that he had a stroke and suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, short-term memory loss and other physical problems. He apologized then for not appearing in court previously to answer questions.
By Annette Chrysostomou - Cyprus Mail
Authorities will decide what to do with the artefacts confiscated from a cargo ship on December 23 once experts from Lebanon have examined them, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Monday.
The 57 crates with the finds were seized by police after they were tipped off about illegal treasure hunting by the offshore supply ship Odyssey Explorer. It is believed that the ship recovered them from a shipwreck in waters east of the island.
According to Alecos Michaelides, the transport ministry’s permanent secretary, the artefacts found on board the ship date to the 18th century.
Speaking after the cabinet meeting at the presidential residence in Troodos, Kasoulides explained that temporarily confiscating the boat was the correct procedure regardless of whether the artefacts were found in Cyprus’ or Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a fact that is still not clear.
He said Cyprus had the obligation to investigate a ship with such a cargo, before granting it permission to depart.
“Whether in one EEZ or the other, the process of the temporary seizure of the ship and its contents will be the same. The Lebanese will come to air their views, we will hear from foreign experts as to where such cargo comes from and what its destination was,” he said.
Asked whether the ship may be handed over to the Lebanese authorities, Kasoulides replied “these are issues that we will have to see because they are preceded by a series of other tests. Depending on the findings, we will act according to the recommendation of the attorney-general.”
Antiquities department director Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou supplied more details on the objects from the shipwreck.
“The artefacts have been recorded. Specifically 588 antiquities have been recorded that were found in 57 plastic crates while some objects were in a small fridge,” she told state radio on Monday.
“We are talking about a large number of historic artefacts. They are not specific to Cyprus. There are porcelain items, wooden items, some organic items, some spores and metal spoons,” she said.
From The Pipeline
“Odyssey Marine Exploration has been conducting a deep -ocean archaeological project in the Eastern Mediterranean under contract. The project has been conducted legally and Odyssey has not conducted any operations in Cypriot waters.
Any statements to the contrary are false. The shipwreck on which the company has been conducting an archaeological operation appears to be a cargo vessel dating to the early to mid-17th century (1600-1650) with a primary cargo of agricultural goods, porcelain, glazed pottery and other trade cargo.
The site is not identifiable by name nor country of origin. The project design anticipates full publication of the results of the operation and exhibit of the recovered artifacts.
We understand the actions taken by the local authorities were based on a false report. Odyssey is fully cooperating and the company is confident the authorities will quickly confirm that Odyssey was neither working in Cypriot waters nor recovering ancient artefacts.
On this project, Odyssey is subject to a non-disclosure agreement under the contract and cannot provide further details.”
Cypriot Police spokesperson Andreas Angelides tell the Cyprus Mail ancient artefacts seized from the Odyssey Marine Exploration vessel Odyssey Explorer are not unique to Cyprus. However Mr Angelides confirmed the origin of the objects was still under investigation as was whether they were on board Odyssey Explorer legally.
“We continue investigations. If the artefacts are not Cypriot and if it is proven they were not found within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the Republic is obliged to protect antiquities under a number of treaties, and procedures will be followed depending on the findings,”
Mr Angelides added “The items have been transferred to a storage facility at the customs office where they will be guarded until investigations are completed.”
Confirming that lawyers for parties with an interest in the case were monitoring the investigation Mr Angelides concluded.
“What we need to stress is that the matter is being carefully handled.” Mr Angelides comments suggest that the material seized does not include the distinctive Cypriot ceramics of the kind that could have been aboard the bark Napreid when she sank in 1872.
From CBC News
If Jon Crouse wants to taste his 125-year-old ale, he'd better do it soon.
The Nova Scotia government hopes to analyze the beer bottle, which could be deemed a heritage object.
Crouse was scuba diving in Halifax this week when he discovered the beer bottle. It has markings that date it between 1872 and 1890, and a cork that indicates it was bottled by the Alexander Keith's brewery.
"I'd like to keep it for myself," Crouse said. But the finders keepers rule doesn't apply.
'A heritage object' "The Special Places Protection Act protects all archaeological sites, known and unknown, both on land in Nova Scotia and in the water," said Sean Wesley McKeane with the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.
"The province of Nova Scotia can seize a heritage object. But what we like is for people to recognize that these are important things, not just for a collector, but for all of the people of Nova Scotia."
From the Straits Times
Large boats from outside Malaysia carrying groups of divers are illegally scavenging for scrap metal from ships sunk during World War II near Pulau Tioman off Pahang, the New Straits Times (NST) daily reported yesterday.
The South China Sea area is a graveyard for more than 100 ships and submarines, including the historically important HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse that were sunk by the Japanese navy in 1941, the report said.
The two ships were deployed by the British to counter Japanese forces during World War II.
The salvage operators masqueraded as fishermen to avoid detection, NST quoted sources as saying, as they used GPS to locate these sunken ships.
Buoys are also used to mark working sites. The parts brought up included propellers, steel parts, high-grade aluminium and brass fixtures.
The boat operators are mostly from Vietnam and Thailand, the report said. They use thin rubber hoses connected to rusty air compressors on their boats to provide breathing air to their divers some 60m below the waters.
Explosives are first set to break up the ship's hull so that the parts can be brought up in smaller pieces.
From Seeking Alpha
Most interesting is that OMEX was found to have violated the MMO's rules on 4 separate items. As this was a first offense in the UK and the UK is unable (for jurisdictional reasons) to use
the non-UK evidence such as the Mercedes/Black Swan judgment against OMEX, the sanction was to issue an official warning letter rather than to prosecute. In addition according to the UK
compliance and enforcement strategy this light sanction was used to save the government costs of dealing with a further court case.
Importantly - this is now officially in OMEX's record and will make any future violations MUCH riskier. Given the bull case for the HMS Victory is from selling artifacts that belonged to
passengers or other "trade goods" (a term not officially legally defined) which appears to be in violation of the UNESCO Annex, this new official warning letter puts a much higher level of
scrutiny on OMEX if they tread around the edges of the rules. In fact, a second FOIA indicates that OMEX will likely require an independent government archeologist to monitor their conduct
at the site.
According to searches on the MMO website, we still cannot find a license application submitted yet by OMEX or the MHF for the HMS Victory work. We understand there is a 3 month public
comment period once a license is applied for so the clock is still ticking on that.
David Knight, 52, of Castle Road, Sandgate, and Edward Huzzey, 55, of Granville Parade, Sandgate, admitted to a total of 19 offences between them.
Bronze cannon and propellers from German submarines were among items taken from wrecks off the Kent coast.
The men appeared before Southampton Magistrates' Court where sentencing was adjourned to 2 July.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the offences were contrary to section 236 and section 237 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
The shipwrecks targeted included German submarines from World War One and an unknown 200-year-old wreck carrying English East India Company cargo.
In a first for South Africa a diver will be sentenced for salvaging scrap metal from old shipwrecks lying off the Eastern Cape shoreline.
Paul du Randt (53), an experienced diver from Port Elizabeth, admitted transgressing South Africa’s heritage resource laws, which effectively determine that no part of any shipwreck that is older than 60 years may be removed without a permit.
This is the first time that anyone has been prosecuted in terms of South Africa’s heritage laws, said Colin Urquart, author of Coast of Storms, which recounts tales of shipwrecks along South Africa’s coastline.
Du Randt was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for five years. He is one of three men who stand accused of illegally selling scrap metal salvaged from three shipwrecks.
The three men appeared in the Humansdorp Magistrate’s Court yesterday, where Du Randt indicated that he would plead guilty and that he would testify against his co-accused.
His case was then moved to Port Elizabeth for sentencing. His co-accused, Jimmy Uys and Alan Withers, who respectively own an explosives and salvaging company, are however both pleading not guilty and they again appear in Humansdorp today.
Du Randt, who owns a diving business in Port Elizabeth’s harbour, admitted that he had removed scrap metal from three different shipwrecks between March 2011 and May 2012.
The first wreck was the Norwegian SS Lyngenfjord, which sank in 1938 near the Tsitsikamma river mouth. Du Randt said they removed three blades from the wreck’s prop without explosives.
At Tsitsikamma they used explosives to get scrap metal off the British SS Bosphorus, which sank in 1867. The third wreck, the American Western Knight which sank in 1929 near Cape Recife, was also partly demolished with explosives.
Du Randt said in his statement that the scrap metal was sold to Power Metal.
His legal representative pointed out that none of the wrecks was “in perfect condition” anymore and said it was not as if bone china was stolen off the Titanic.
No treasures were removed, only scrap metal.
The state pointed out that permits to salvage wrecks were relatively easily obtainable and added the wrecks were important for the area’s tourism.
The Indonesian warship, KRI Teluk Gilimanuk 531, of the Navy Western Fleet (Koarmabar) halted a local flagged KM Trianis ship carrying treasures salvaged from a shipwreck in the Mapur waters, Bintan District, Riau Islands.
"The ship, weighing 82 GT, was secured, as it was carrying 546 pieces of ceramics that were allegedly retrieved from the ocean floor, without seeking legal permission," Spokesperson of Tanjung Pinang VI Naval Main Base Major Josdy Damopolii stated here on Wednesday.
The ceramics, recovered from the seabed of the Mapur waters, were believed to be from the Ming Dynasty.
"The officers are still investigating the case," Damapolii noted.
He further added that there might be other ships involved in this illegal treasure hunt operation.
The treasure raider ship was commanded by Salman Lubis and has eight crew members and five passengers on board.
Besides the ship, the Navy also confiscated diving equipment such as a compressor, goggles, a diving suit, and a 300-meter long hose for delivering oxygen.
The ship was escorted by the KRI Teluk Gilimanuk 531 warship to the Tanjungpinang IV Naval Main Base for further investigation.
By Jill Reilly - Mail Online
A treasure haul salvaged from a sunken Spanish galleon sunk by British warships in 1804 was unveiled today.
The loot was found in the wreck of Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes and had been at the centre of a five-year legal battle between a U.S. salvage company and Spain.
US firm Odyssey Marine Exploration found the lost treasure off Portugal's Atlantic coast in 2007.
At the time, the treasure was estimated to be worth $500m (£316m).
But a US federal judge recently ordered Odyssey to give Spain access to the treasure, the last in a series of legal defeats for the salvage firm.
Only a tiny portion of the haul from the galleon that sank off Portugal's Atlantic coast near the straits of Gibraltar was shown to the media - 12 individual silver coins, a block of encrusted silver coins stuck together after centuries underwater, two gold tobacco boxes and a bronze pulley.
Authorities who have been inventorying the treasure since it was flown from Florida to Spain in February said it will be transferred later this year from Madrid to the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology in the Mediterranean city of Cartagena.
By Mark Staniforth - The Conservation
Vietnam has thousands of kilometres of coastline, and may have thousands of shipwrecks. Many of these wrecks would be loaded with archaeologically fascinating and significant items.
But the country has struggled to preserve its underwater cultural heritage.
To date the protection and preservation of Vietnam’s underwater cultural heritage, such as shipwrecks, has had a low priority.
Vietnam has a very long coastline (more than 2,000km) and seafaring activity has been extensive for at least 2,000 years.
Vietnam is centrally located in South East Asia and was on the “Maritime Silk route” that ran from China to the west via the South China Sea.
Very little is known about how many shipwrecks, or other underwater cultural heritage sites, might exist in Vietnam.
Almost no maritime archaeology survey work has been done, but I think it is likely that there will be thousands of sites.
Unfortunately, the little work that has been done in Vietnam in the past has often been done by, or in association with, treasure hunters.
Large quantities of underwater cultural heritage have been sold. For example, thousands of ceramic artifacts from shipwrecks located at Vũng Tàu, Ca Mau, Binh Thuan and Hoi An have been sold at auction.
From National Parks Traveler
Deep in south Florida lies a collection of islands so unique and exotic, one might compare them to precious stones on a lady's necklace.
Set among this string of jewels known as the Florida Keys lies a particularly appealing gem: an underwater national park.
Biscayne National Park lies 95 percent underwater, and contains stunningly intricate coral reefs, an array of fascinating sealife, and 55 shipwreck sites.
Alongside these sites are 33 additional submerged archaeological sites that range from sunken cargoes and artifacts to even colonial anchors moored in the seabed absent their ships.
But this alluring national park does not always attract pleasant visitors. Plagued by looters, the park constantly must spend extra time and money to keep criminals away from plundering the shipwrecks.
The shipwreck “English China,” nicknamed for its abundant English ceramic artifacts, sank in the late 1760s.
The first groups of people to visit this sunken beauty were called ‘wreckers.’ These were men who would brave the troubled seas, particularly around the Florida Keys. Not only would they come to the rescue of crews on foundered ships, but afterwards they would return to salvage what they could of the wreck’s remains.
Such ‘wreckers’ probably obtained much of the ship’s valuable cargo in the 1760s, leaving only the scraps and pieces -- but this does not deter modern-day looters from trying their luck. Charles Lawson, Biscayne’s staff archaeologist and cultural resource manager, says these latter-day pirates are most likely unsuccessful in their scavenging.
But they nevertheless do damage to the site.
By David Crossland - Spiegel
Alarmed at the looting of historically valuable shipwrecks in the Baltic Sea, German archaeologists have started attaching underwater signs designating them as protected monuments.
Hobby divers and trophy hunters are damaging a precious maritime legacy stretching back thousands of years, they warn.
The two-man U-boat was discovered lying at a depth of 18 meters near Boltenhagen off Germany's Baltic Sea coast in 2000.
Its plexiglass turret hatch was intact and closed, which prompted authorities to designate it as a war grave because the crew of the vessel, of a type used by the German navy towards the end of World War II to evade Allied sonar detection and sink ships, was believed to still be inside.
Then someone dived down and removed the hatch in 2002. The local government responded by sealing the gap with a steel plate. But there have since been attempts to break it open.
"It's one of our big worries, over the years people keep trying to get into it and that is of course utterly disrespectful," says Detlef Jantzen, an archaeologist at the regional agency for monument protection in the northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
The U-boat is one of some 1,500 marine monuments strewn across the seabed along the coast.
The area has a wealth of well-preserved shipwrecks, lost cargo, planes and even ancient settlements submerged through subsidence and rising water levels.
It amounts to a precious historical legacy and gives insight, for example, into boat-building techniques dating back to the Middle Ages and the events that led to the sinkings.
By susan Cocking - The Miami Herald
Some unidentified shipwrecks in Biscayne National Park have been plundered by divers who take artifacts illegally.
Divers who want to see the 6 sites can get information from the park service.
Scattered on the sandy bottom about 11 feet deep near Biscayne National Park’s Elliott Key are numerous ceramic shards guarded by schools of gray snapper and grunts.
The dusky white and bile green remnants of dinner plates and tea cups don’t look like much and they aren’t worth any money, even to television’s Pawn Stars.
But those artifacts and some ancient burned timbers surrounding them have considerable cultural value as living snapshots of a long-ago, unsolved maritime mystery.
Chuck Lawson, archeologist and cultural resources manager at the park for the past two years, would love to identify the ship that carried all that china and find out where it was going and why it sank.
But it doesn’t help that divers have been plundering the wreckage illegally for years.
And that site, nicknamed “English China,” is one of more than 70 shipwrecks and artifact piles scattered throughout park waters that have been dug up, dredged and pillaged before their origins could be determined.
“Most of them will stay that way forever because people stole things off them in the 1960s and ’70s so you can’t tell who they were, where they were going, or what was on them,” Lawson said.
He’s a bit more optimistic about the English China site because of the large number of ceramic shards found there.
The crockery remnants have been positively identified as pieces made by England’s Staffordshire pottery sometime between 1765 and 1770.
A US treasure-hunting company recently failed in its attempt to claim ownership of the 500 million treasure trove it discovered off the Spanish coast.
The dispute over the booty of the Mercedes had drawn in Spain's government, a US court and Washington lawmakers.
With the Mercedes treasure safe in Spain, the five-year legal battle over an estimated 594,000 silver and gold coins recovered from a 19th-century shipwreck finally came to a close earlier this month.
Not only was it a costly public dispute for all parties engaged, but it involved a canny behind-the-scenes ruse blending greed, deceit, political intrigue and even mutiny within Odyssey Marine Exploration, which eventually saw all the half-million historic minted pieces plucked from its hands after losing one court battle after another.
The Tampa-based underwater salvager fought hard to keep the trove, but to no avail. On May 14, the US Supreme Court rejected Odysseys final appeal in the company’s last-ditch hope not only to remain with the coins but also to set a precedent in international finders-keepers litigation.
Odyssey made a global splash in May 2007 when it announced it had recovered what it billed as the biggest shipwreck treasure in modern history – a 17-ton trove of artefacts plucked from the Atlantic, including silver and gold pieces valued at about 500 million.
But while it lodged a tooth-and-nail fight with Spain – which always insisted that the treasure belonged to the government because it came from a navy shipwreck – to keep possession of the discovery, it made generous political contributions to US congressmen with the hope of persuading them to change the law before the courts made their final ruling.
The company even backed a criminal complaint against one of the discoverers of the treasure who tried to make money on the stock market on the back of the find.
Records from the US Federal Elections Commission and the US Security Exchange Commission during this period show that Odyssey was actively engaging in covert strategies to keep others from profiting from its discovery.
But in the end,Odyssey, a publicly traded firm listed on the NASDAQ, lost all the legal arguments. The coins and other artefacts, including cannons, gold boxes, wooden fragments, pottery and jewellery, were put on two Hercules C-130 cargo planes sent by the Spanish military and transported to Torrejn air force base in late February.
The entire booty is being guarded at a secret location by the Civil Guard under orders from the Cultural Ministry, which hopes to put it on display soon.
By Adam Linhardt - Keys News
The Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes' $500 million worth of centuries-old coins and other treasure will remain in Spain, not in the hands of the Tampa-based salvors who found it or the wealthy South American families who say it belonged to their ancestors.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by lawyers for Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc., and Key West attorney David Paul Horan, who represented the descendants.
Horan filed a brief in March asking the justices to order Spain to return 23 tons of silver and gold coins to the families whose ancestors allegedly owned the treasure when the Spanish galleon sank off Portugal in 1804.
That was in response to an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals order that the Odyssey group, which found the treasure in 2007, turn it over to Spain.
The justices' decision not to hear the case -- they filed no written comment in their dismissal -- effectively drives a final nail in the coffin for any remaining hope that the treasure will ever leave Spain, said Washington D.C.-based attorney Jim Goold, who represented Spain in the legal wrangling.
"The Supreme Court decision closes the books and makes victory for Spain final," Goold said.
"The treasure is in Spain, where it is being inventoried and conserved by the Spanish National Museum of Archaeology, where it will be placed in public exhibits for the public benefit."
Spain successfully argued that U.S. courts are bound by international maritime law and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which essentially state that foreign warships on military missions are exempt from U.S. court jurisdiction.
Similarly, most U.S. warships and those of her allies that are sunk in battle are protected from salvagers, as many governments view them as sacred mass grave sites.
"These materials are for public benefit and, just like other archaeology discoveries, they don't belong hung on chains around the necks of collectors," Goold said. Goold knew of no other legal recourse for the Odyssey group or South American families, but Horan's clients are holding out hope.
Some of the treasure apparently didn't make it to Tampa, and then to Spain, and instead was held in the tiny British territory of Gibraltar at the entrance of the Mediterranean.
The US Supreme Court has again avoided an international dispute over the treasure salvaged from a 19th-century shipwreck.
The justices rejected appeals from deep-sea explorers, who found the wreck of a Spanish galleon, and Peru, both of which objected to rulings awarding the treasure to Spain.
In February, Spain took possession of 17 tons of silver coins and other artefacts worth around $500m.
Odyssey Marine Exploration has lost every round in federal court in its bid to keep the treasure it discovered after finding the wreck, believed to be the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, in the Atlantic off Portugal.
The ship sank in 1804.
By Richard Giedroyc - Numismater
Spain has finally succeeded, recovering an estimated 594,000 early 19th century primarily silver coins dredged from the Atlantic Ocean by the treasure hunting company Odyssey Marine Exploration of Florida. The coins were repatriated via a ruling by U.S. courts.
A U.S. District Court recently ruled in Spain’s favor, honoring international treaties regarding warships sunk in battle. According to international treaties, such sunken ships remain as the property of the government owning such a ship rather than becoming available to treasure hunters. The British sunk this Spanish treasure on its way to Spain during 1804.
The fact it was a Spanish ship didn’t stop Peru from claiming the coins since many of the coins had been struck at Spanish colonial mints in that country. The Peruvian claims went the same way as did those of the Odyssey Marine Exploration.
On Feb. 25 the coins, along with additional artifacts, were shipped to Madrid, a city in which the coins had never before been, in a country in which the coins had never before been. Spain won this round of the cultural patrimony wars.
At the time Odyssey divers found the shipwreck of the Nuestra Senor de las Mercedes off Portugal’s Atlantic coast it was announced the treasure was worth about $500 million to collectors.
On Feb. 25 Jose Ignacio Wert, Spain’s education, culture and sports minister made no mention of value, simply saying, “The legacy of the Mercedes belongs to Spain.”
It is likely Spain went to all the trouble of fighting for this waterlogged hoard in court due to its value, not due to the treasure simply being a legacy rightfully belonging to Spain.
But, wait a minute. This is treasure trove dredged from the ocean floor. What kind of collector value are we really looking at ?
The first hint comes from a Feb. 27 Associated Press story. Within this story is the comment, “After two centuries under water, parts of the trove of coins are stuck together in big chunks, sometimes in the very shape of the chests or sacks they were originally stored in, said Milagros Buendia, part of the specialized team that went to Florida to get the booty.”
The AP story continues that “Spain will now set about classifying and restoring the 594,000 coins and other artifacts involved before it figures out how to display them for the public.”
The word “restoring” is the key, a word that likely goes over the head of the average potential buyer of such coins. This is part of the reverse psychology that has been applied many times when someone is publicizing a hoard of coins in preparation to selling them to the public. (There is no indication at this time that Spain will seek to sell the coins.)
By Roland Lloyd Parry - The Times of Malta
Ship that sank in 1804 yields a booty that has the US, Spain, and Latin America at odds.
A court battle over treasure from an old Spanish shipwreck has reached Gibraltar, where descendants of the sunken cargo’s owners are fighting to win back part of the booty from Spain.
The British-administered territory has been drawn into a tangled squabble between Spain, US treasure hunters and the Latin American descendants, in a case harking back to the days of the Spanish empire.
Mathilde Daireaux Kinsky, an Argentinian who lives in Colombia, says part of the cargo of the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, sunk by the British in a sea battle in 1804, belonged to her ancestor Diego de Alvear y Ponce de Leon.
A Spanish general in the colonies at the time, he was not on board himself but lost his wife and seven of his children along with his precious coins in the shipwreck.
“We are not doing this for the money. We are seeking respect for the memory of our family members who died on board the Mercedes,” said Ms Daireaux, 49, one of six descendants claiming the treasure in the Gibraltar courts.
Odyssey Marine Exploration, a company that specialises in salvaging deep-sea wrecks, hauled the treasure – mainly gold and silver coins mined and minted in the former Spanish colonies – from the seabed off Portugal in 2007.
It transported most of the treasure via Gibraltar, a sunny enclave of British pubs and red telephone boxes at the mouth of the Mediterranean, to Florida, where the company is based.
A court in Florida last month let the Spanish government claim this share – 23 tons of silver coins and other items, worth €350 million – and fly it back to Madrid.
But several hundred more silver coins were left behind in a crate in a Gibraltar customs house, where they were blocked pending Spanish legal efforts to claim them, says Daniel Feetham, a lawyer acting for the descendants.
“The descendants have issued a claim in the Supreme Court of Gibraltar and there is an order from the court here preventing these coins from being taken out of the jurisdiction,” said Dr Feetham.
Jesus García Calero - ABC
Los inventarios ocultan piezas españolas de otros pecios y la Roca reconoce que no cumplió ni sus propias leyes.
El caso Odyssey ha entrado en una espiral preocupante en Gibraltar.
Después de que los cazatesoros hayan mareado la perdiz para no devolver las monedas y objetos que olvidaron en la Roca en 2007, ahora España se enfrenta a una nueva situación, puesto que el Tribunal Supremo gibraltareño acaba de proclamar el arresto de todo el material (inmovilización) bajo una extraña demanda presentada por supuestos herederos de quienes llevaban dinero en la fragata expoliada "Mercedes".
Lo grave de la situación está en el reconocimiento de que ni los cazatesoros ni las autoridades desde 2007 se han molestado en cumplir sus propias leyes (Merchant Shipping Act) que obligaban a Odyssey a informar de la carga a una autoridad portuaria, el "receiver of wreck", como ya denunció ABC. Además, en el reconocimiento de que hay objetos en Gibraltar que no proceden de la "Mercedes" sino que salieron de otros pecios, aunque en algún caso compartieron contenedor con las monedas que viajaron a EE.UU.
¿ De cuántos barcos extrajo Odyssey los restos que pudo durante su estancia en aguas españolas ?
Todo un lío que se agrava por momentos y que puede alargar notablemente el final del pleito en Tampa.
From My Fox Tampa Bay
A federal judge was considering Friday whether to force Florida deep-sea explorers to hand over to Spain the last of the treasure they recovered from a 200-year-old shipwreck.
Spanish military planes flew home with nearly 600,000 silver coins and other artifacts
after prevailing in a five-year legal battle over ownership with Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration. Now, Spain wants the rest of it -- specifically some artifacts that Odyssey left behind in Gibraltar when it flew the coins to the United States in May 2007.
The artifacts include at least 100 silver coins, personal effects of sailors and ship equipment, said James Goold, a Washington attorney who represents the Spanish government.
In a federal court filing, Spain has asked that Odyssey be forced to hand over the remainder of the booty from the frigate Nuestra Senora de Las Mercedes, which was sunk by British warships in 1804.
During a two-hour long hearing in federal court Friday morning, Goold asked U.S. Magistrate Judge James Pizzo to order Odyssey to turn the treasure in Gibraltar over to Spain and for Odyssey to pay for Spain's fees and court costs over the issue. The judge did not indicate when he might rule on the matter.
Goold also questioned some alleged discrepancies in the documented inventory of what is in a storage crate in Gibraltar. He said the judge could hold Odyssey in contempt of court.;
"Gibraltar has been used to hide critical evidence in this case," Goold said. "We need to figure out what's what."
But Odyssey's lawyer said the explorers haven't been hiding anything. Melinda MacConnel said Odyssey has not been able to properly inventory the storage crate for years, in part because Spain intervened in the case.
MacConnel said all of the treasure from Nuesta Senora de Las Mercedes was brought to Gibraltar, and the bulk of it then was sent to Florida -- all except the crate in question, which contains the coins and other miscellaneous items.
By Nestor P. Burgos Jr - Inquirer Visayas
The National Museum has asked the Roxas City government to declare a shipwreck area off the coast of Capiz’s capital a cultural and heritage site to help prevent the looting of artifacts, some dating to the 14th century.
Edwin dela Rosa, senior researcher of the museum’s cultural properties division, said his office had requested the city council through Mayor Alan Celino to pass a resolution or ordinance declaring the area in Barangay (village) Culasi a heritage site.
“This would ensure that the area will be protected because we have already received reports of continued lootings by divers in the area,” Dela Rosa told the Inquirer in a telephone interview yesterday.
Celino said the city government was willing to pass the ordinance to ensure that the area will be protected and to convert it into a tourist site.
A two-member team from the underwater section of the National Museum’s archaeology division inspected the shipwreck and gathered samples last week after receiving reports that centuries-old porcelain materials had already been recovered and sold to collectors.
The porcelain materials were most likely from the Ming (1368-1644) and Ching (1644-1911) dynasties, Dela Rosa said.
The ship that sank to a depth of 130 feet is believed to be a Chinese trade vessel or a Spanish galleon.
The National Museum learned of the shipwreck three weeks ago and that at least 70 pieces of porcelain materials believed to have been stashed from the wreckage were being sold to collectors.
Cómo se hizo el mayor expolio de patrimonio español y por qué se simuló que procedía de la fragata ‘Mercedes.
El 25 de febrero aterrizaron en la base de Torrejón dos aviones Hércules del Ejército del Aire con el tesoro extraído del mar por la compañía Odyssey Marine Exploration y cuya pertenencia a España reconoció el Tribunal de Tampa (Florida) el 22 de diciembre de 2009.
La Gaceta destapó en exclusiva la exportación de ese patrimonio español desde Gibraltar el 17 de mayo de 2007 y desde entonces hemos liderado la información sobre los secretos de este complicado caso.
Primer secreto: Gibraltar
Cuando presentó en Tampa el tesoro el 18 de mayo de 2007, Odyssey pretendió ocultar su procedencia. Dos días antes, el juez competente les había reconocido la propiedad de un pecio (yacimiento submarino) en aguas internacionales y el hallazgo de otro 100 millas al oeste de Gibraltar.
En Estados Unidos, la Ley del Almirantazgo reconoce a cualquier rescatador la propiedad de lo que se encuentre en el mar, si se prueba que ha sido abandonado por sus propietarios.
Odyssey declaró que, por razones de seguridad, no mencionaría el lugar donde extrajo el tesoro.
Cuando el 22 de mayo La Gaceta publicó la fotografía del avión con el que Odyssey había volado desde Gibraltar, la compañía cambió su versión de la historia, añadiendo que “las monedas se introdujeron en EE UU con una licencia de exportación válida garantizada por el país desde donde fueron exportadas e importadas legalmente conforme a las leyes de EE UU”.
La Gaceta publicó el 23 de mayo que el jefe de la aduana gibraltareña, John Rodríguez, había firmado las licencias, lo que confirmó la Embajada británica en Madrid, al asegurar que entre las competencias de su colonia está la de exportar por vía aérea metales preciosos.
La Embajada aseguraba que la extracción del tesoro se había realizado en aguas internacionales y que Odyssey había “confirmado a las autoridades británicas que está trabajando con la mayor celeridad posible para averiguar la identidad del barco hundido”.
Jesus Garcia Calero - ABC
Un español estuvo infiltrado en la red de intereses de Odyssey en el Estrecho de Gibraltar.
Pero informaba mientras tanto a la Unidad Central Operativa de la Guardia Civil. Los cazatesoros querían captarlo porque es buzo profesional y conoce bien la Bahía de Algeciras, donde ha llegado a encontrar piezas de valor.
Además, tenía un puesto importante en 2007, meses antes del expolio de Odyssey: director de proyecto de la monoboya de la refinería de Cepsa en Algeciras y director de operaciones de la empresa internacional PM Diving.
Pero en poco tiempo su vida se convirtió en un infierno: perdió su trabajo y tuvo que convivir con amenazas de muerte. Durante cinco años no ha querido hablar más que con la Guardia Civil. Hoy, por fin, rompe su silencio para ABC.
Todo comienza a principios de 2007, en un restaurante de Los Barrios, junto a Algeciras. Allí se celebra una comida muy especial.
Preside el encuentro Greg Stemm, el sonriente y dadivoso co-fundador de Odyssey Marine Exploration, que está extendiendo una fina red en la zona mientras sus barcos escanean las aguas territoriales del Mar de Alborán.
Serán doce personas en el almuerzo, divididas en dos mesas. Junto a Stemm, hay algún otro miembro del staff de la compañía, el dueño de PM Diving, Henrik Jensen, y también el contacto de confianza de Odyssey en España, un empresario gibraltareño residente en Sotogrande, Paw René Jakobsen. Completan las mesas los empleados de este último. Han invitado al buceador profesional de brillante carrera con el fin de ganarse su confianza y colaboración. ¿Por qué?
Se llama José Antonio Braza. Él había comentado detalles de sus inmersiones en conversaciones informales con Paw René y éste rápidamente lo puso en contacto con Stemm y Odyssey.
Tienen muchas ganas de saber dónde puede haber naufragios con cargas valiosas.
As long ago as 2007, the Spanish Government was given a detailed breakdown of the archaeological artefacts that this week sparked a media frenzy in Spain on news they were still being stored in Gibraltar by Odyssey Marine Exploration.
The press reports coincided with the return to Spain of 17 tonnes of silver coins recovered by Odyssey in 2007 and believed to have come from the wreck of a Spanish galleon, the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.
The suggestion was that a portion of the treasure remained on the Rock, which was the operating base for Odyssey’s vessels.
In fact, the only items that remain in Gibraltar are archaeological artefacts weighing a total of 93 kilos.
These were recovered in the Atlantic Ocean and are items of little monetary value but high archaeological importance, including pieces of a sextant, ceramics and a number of personal items.
They include just a small number of coins and were recovered not just from the Mercedes site but from three other locations in the Atlantic too.
All could potentially yield valuable information about the various wrecks they came from.
They are stored in a sealed crate in a commercially-operated bonded warehouse. The crate has remained unopened since 2007.
Back then, Odyssey provided a complete list as well as photos of these artefacts to Spain.
The recent reports in Spain suggested that Spain would take legal steps to recover the items but so far this has not happened.
This week the Gibraltar Government said the fate of any items that may remain on the Rock was a matter for the Spanish Government and the company.
By Carolina Fernandez - Broward Palm Beach New Times
Sean Fisher lives the exciting yet often uncertain life of a treasure hunter. As vice president of Mel Fisher's Treasures, Fisher knows that his career choice is not always easy.
Treasure hunters spend years scavenging the salty seas in hopes of finding hidden gems that could win them a fortune -- and most of the time, they're very hard to come by.
That's why when a group of Tampa's treasure hunters found 594,000 silver and gold coins worth $500 million in a two-century-old shipwreck, it was more than a big deal. And when they didn't get to keep it, it was an even bigger deal -- for Fisher, his family, his friends in Tampa, and treasure hunters alike.
Fisher, whose family-owned company in Key West is named after his dive-pioneer grandfather, called the situation a "travesty, unjust, and wrong at so many levels."
In May 2007, treasure hunters from Odyssey Marine Exploration of Tampa set out for European waters hoping to find buried riches.
They discovered a piece of history that traced back to 19th-century war tensions between the Spanish and British empires: a shipwreck believed to be Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes off Portugal's Atlantic Coast near the Strait of Gibraltar.
In an 1804 naval battle with the British, theMercedes exploded and sank with what Spanish officials say were 200 passengers aboard. Despite laws that prohibit treasure hunters from excavating foreign military vessels, these treasure hunters took a chance and hauled their big win -- a treasure-trove that weighed 17 tons -- back to the United States.
Spain filed suit in U.S. federal court, arguing that it was not only the country's property but a vital piece of Spanish history. A federal district court judge ruled in 2009 that U.S. courts didn't have jurisdiction and ordered the gold returned to Spain.
On Friday, after a five-year battle, the loot made its way back to Spain on a cargo jet.
Now, treasure hunters have no choice but to face their defeat, but not without a sense of outrage at the injustice they feel. Fisher believes sovereign immunity laws should not apply to a shipwreck that Spain abandoned and forgot about centuries ago.
"If Spain was out there looking for vessels and doing their best to do what we do, then that would be one thing, but they're not doing that," he said. "If it wasn't for companies like [Odyssey] and us, this history, this wealth of knowledge, would sit at the bottom of the ocean and deteriorate."
El Confidencial Digital
Partidas de exportación, permisos aduaneros, licencias...
El Gobierno tiene constancia a través de estos documentos de que el tesoro que guardaba el pecio de la 'Mercedes' era mayor que el que ha devuelto Odyssey. Los expertos aseguran que la empresa norteamericana pudo cometer tres infracciones. Reino Unido y Gibraltar no colaboraron con España.
Fuentes oficiosas españolas, conocedoras a fondo de las actividades de la empresa de cazatesoros norteamericana, a las que ha tenido acceso El Confidencial Digital, estiman que Odyssey habría cometido al menos tres delitos, en su operativo para recuperar llevarse fuera de España el cargamento de la fragata “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes”.
-- Falsificación documental. Odyssey Marine Exploration no ha reflejado en los documentos entregados al juzgado estadounidense la totalidad del material que se encontraba en el interior del buque hundido.
Declaró, además, que el valor de la carga era de 4,5 millones de dólares, mientras que el Gobierno español sospecha que los kilos de oro y plata que se hundieron multiplican por varias veces esa cifra (si se tiene el precio que tenía el oro y de la plata en la primavera de 2007). Hay que recordar que toda la carga pasó por la aduana de Gibraltar pero no hay constancia escrita de ello.
-- Expolio del patrimonio histórico nacional. Se han receptado, ocultado y desviado, sin permiso, objetos pertenecientes al patrimonio de los españoles, que finalmente se trasladaron a Estados Unidos.
-- Destrucción del pecio. Los arqueólogos del Gobierno español no pudieron inspeccionar el pecio ya que Odyssey no dio oportunidad para ello porque el buque ha quedado destrozado.
Como un homenaje a Pipe Sarmiento, que ha presentado pruebas sólidas de que el principal expolio cometido por Odyssey fue en aguas del Mediterráneo.
Se lo pido a la jueza del Juzgado número 3 de La Línea: retenga el tesoro y no se lo entregue al Ministerio de Cultura hasta que éste se haya tomado la molestia de mandar un robot para que explore el yacimiento que en 2001 Odyssey llamó Cambridge, suponiendo que era el Sussex.
Por esa época, los protectores de los cazatesoros montaron el caso Bahía II para perseguir a quienes les hacían sobra, Luis Valero, Claudio Bonifacio, el propio Sarmiento y hasta Luis Lafuente Batanero, entonces subdirector general de Protección del Patrimonio.
Obviamente, cada uno tiene su historia y ni actuaban juntos, ni tienen los mismos méritos. Pero todos fueron injustamente imputados, como muestra que el caso fuera sobreseído.
Para más datos sobre que el tesoro no proceda de la Mercedes, ver lo publicado ayer en La Gaceta. Añado una mentira más de Odyssey respecto al supuesto yacimiento de la Mercedes en la que caí recientemente: si está a más de 1.100 metros, ¿cómo es que lo han sacado con el robot Zeus, cuyo alcance máximo es 1.000 ?
En cambio el Cambridge o "falso Sussex" estaba a menos de 900 metros.
En todo caso, se lo pido y ruego a la jueza como homenaje a la quienes han defendido el patrimonio (agradezco lo escrito por Jesús G. Calero). Por si no queda claro, adjunto mapa del lugar, que puede verse en este mapa de las andanzas de Odyssey.
Por ser la primera entrada tras la llegada del tesoro, pongo la foto que ayer hizo Chema Barroso y que no ha sido publicada hoy en La Gaceta.
From Fox News
Spain on Monday rejected Peru's claim to a huge multimillion-dollar undersea treasure recovered from the wreckage of a ship that had left from Lima's port more than 200 years ago.
Spain recovered the nearly 600,000 coins -- mostly silver but a few made of gold -- on Saturday after they were flown to Madrid from the United States.
That marked the culmination of Spain's five-year battle in U.S. courts with a Florida deep-sea exploration firm that in 2007 found the remains of a ship believed to be the Spanish frigate Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes.
The Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration found the shipwreck off Portugal near the Strait of Gibraltar, taking the booty first to the British colony of Gibraltar at Spain's southern tip and then to Florida.
On Monday, Spain's education, culture and sports minister, Jose Ignacio Wert, told a packed news conference the final U.S. court ruling stated that "the legacy of the Mercedes belongs to Spain."
None of the treasure itself was displayed at the news conference, just a few photos on a TV screen. One showed a white plastic laundry-basket type container full of dull, crud-covered silver coins, large and thin.
After two centuries under water, parts of the trove of coins are stuck together in big chunks, sometimes in the very shape of the chests or sacks they were originally stored in, said Milagros Buendia, part of the specialized team that went to Florida to get the booty.
Wert said Spain will now set about classifying and restoring the 594,000 coins and other artifacts involved before it figures out how to display them for the public.
By Rossella Lorenzi - News Discovery
A fabulous sunken treasure recovered from a Spanish wreck in the Atlantic Ocean is flying back home from the United States, ending a five-year legal battle.
The treasure was put aboard two Spanish military C-130 planes. They took off Friday from a Florida Air Force base with 595,000 silver coins and other gold aboard. They are expected to land in Madrid's Torrejon Air Base after a 24-hour flight with two stops on the way -- New Jersey and the Azores.
"Today a journey that began 200 years ago is finally ending. We are recovering a historical legacy and a treasure. This is not money. This is historical heritage," Spain's ambassador to the United States, Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo, was reported as saying as the planes took off.
Consisting of 18th-century silver coins weighing more than 17 tons, hundreds of gold coins, worked gold and other artifacts, the treasure has been at the center of an acrimonious international legal battle ever since it was discovered in 2007 by underwater robots from Odyssey Marine Exploration, a Florida-based treasure-hunting company.
Valued at as much as $500 million -- the richest shipwreck haul in history -- the trove was handled by Odyssey and shipped straight to the United States.
The company, which, according to earnings statements, spent $2.6 million to retrieve, transport, store and conserve the precious cargo, has been unable to remove the silver and gold coins from warehouses at the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation in Sarasota, Fla.
Immediately after the treasure was recovered, Spain filed a claim arguing that the treasure originated from the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes.
The 36-gun Spanish frigate sank off the coast of Portugal in 1804 with 200 people aboard following a battle with four British navy ships.
According to an international maritime law known as the doctrine of sovereign immunity, active-duty naval vessels on a noncommercial mission remain the property of the countries that commissioned them. Spain thus claimed the exclusive property of the wreck and its cargo.
Santiago Mata - Intereconomia
España da hoy la bienvenida a un tesoro cuya propiedad le han reconocido justamente los tribunales norteamericanos, pero al que falsamente se considera procedente de los restos de la fragata Mercedes, hundida en 1804 por los británicos.
En realidad, según los expertos, el tesoro procede de un barco hundido posteriormente, y cuyos restos están a pocas millas de la costa española en el Mediterráneo.
El abogado maritimista Lorenzo Sarmiento, que se dedicó a observar los buques de Odyssey desde 1998, es el más tenaz defensor de la tesis de que el tesoro se extrajo del Mediterráneo, que, según él, se vería corroborada por las principales pruebas presentadas en el juicio celebrado en Florida.
En 2001 Odyssey bautizó como Cambridge un pecio con 18 cañones hallado a pocas millas de la costa mediterránea española, afirmando que era el buque británico Sussex.
En 2002, se le permitió extraer un cañón y una pieza de cerámica que, según el jefe del Museo Arqueológico de Cartagena, Iván Negueruela, no pertenecía al Sussex.
En 2003, confiando en obtener permisos, el jefe de Odyssey, Greg Stemm, declaraba en El Mundo que iba a sacar “el mayor tesoro del mundo” cerca de las costas españolas. Al final lo hizo, pero aseguró que procedía del Atlántico y dio al pecio el nombre de Black Swan (Cisne Negro).
Sin embargo, una foto presentada en 2007 ante el tribunal de Tampa muestra el mismo cañón, la misma ancla y hasta la misma lata de cerveza que habían publicado en 2001.
El juez de Florida Mark Pizzo aceptó la tesis de que el barco expoliado era la Mercedes porque no se presentó otra alternativa. Sin embargo, el motivo por el que entregó la carga a España era que todas las monedas eran españolas y, por tanto, no cabía duda de que se trataba de un buque español.
Esto se deducía de la declaración del arqueólogo de Odyssey encargado de conservar las monedas, Sean A. Kingsley, quien afirma que son “casi exclusivamente monedas acuñadas en colonias españolas de Sudamérica fechadas entre 1773 y 1804, con mayor concentración entre las décadas de 1790 y comienzos de la de 1800”, la mayoría de la ceca de Lima, “aunque la ceca de Potosí en Bolivia está igualmente bien representada”.
De haber sido el barco la Mercedes, las monedas debían ser casi exclusivamente acuñadas en 1803 en Lima, pues son las que fue a recoger, mientras que si las monedas son variadas, según Sarmiento, es probable que el pecio sea el de una fragata hundida en el Mediterráneo en fecha algo posterior a la Mercedes, como la Santa Ana, alias La Dido, o la Félix.
By Brian Reyes - Gibraltar Chronicle
The US company that recovered the world’s most valuable and controversial underwater treasure said yesterday that it would seek to rebuild its relationship with the Spanish government.
Odyssey Marine Exploration believes that an ongoing project in partnership with Britain to excavate the wreck of HMS Victory could provide the template for future work with other countries, including Spain.
The development came as two Spanish military planes prepared to fly 17 tonnes of silver coins from the US to Spain this weekend, bringing to a close a convoluted saga over the so-called Black Swan treasure.
Odyssey recovered the coins in 2007 in international waters off Portugal and flew them to its Florida base from Gibraltar, sparking a bitter legal row with Spain in the process.
Odyssey lost at every stage in the US courts and this month, after five years of courtroom wrangling, a US judge ordered the company to hand over the $500m haul to Spain.
On Friday, two Spanish air force Hercules transport planes were expected to fly from Florida under high security carrying the coins to Spain.
A decade ago the company enjoyed a good relationship with the Spanish government and even carried Spanish navy observers on board its flagship vessel, Odyssey Explorer, while it conducted underwater surveys off the Spanish coast.
But that relationship soured when the Junta de Andalucia took umbrage at the company’s activities, and worsened progressively after the PSOE won the general election in 2004 and the Junta’s heritage chief, Carmen Calvo, became culture minister in Madrid.
Critics of Odyssey argue that the company puts profit above archaeology and heritage protection.
In the Mercedes case, Spain accused the company of plundering a national heritage site and dubbed Odyssey modern-day pirates.
But the company countered that its work adhered to strict archaeological protocols and standards.
It said business and archaeology could coexist and be mutually beneficial, arguing that without the efforts of companies like Odyssey, deep sea underwater heritage would never be recovered and might otherwise be lost.
By Lloyd Sowers - My Fox Houston
There is yet another twist in the international battle over a treasure trove of gold coins and other artifacts found by a Tampa company.
The country of Peru is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the imminent transfer of the half-billion dollar treasure from the U.S. to Spain.
The gold and silver coins were discovered by Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Explorations in 2007.
At the time, the find was estimated to be worth around $500 million to collectors, which would have made it the richest shipwreck in history.
Since then, Odyssey has been in a legal battle with Spain over who gets to keep the coins.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a motion by Tampa's Odyssey Marine Exploration to stop the transfer, so Odyssey officials agreed to give the Spanish government access, and said the company would not oppose the efforts.
Now, Peru is saying that silver and gold was essentially stolen by the Spanish from the people of Peru centuries ago.
Peru is asking the U.S. Supreme Court not to allow Spain to take possession of the treasure.
Los técnicos españoles comenzaron hoy en Sarasota, costa oeste de Florida, las labores de revisión y preparación de las cerca de 595.000 monedas que forman el tesoro de la fragata "Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes", antes de su envío a España hacia finales de semana.
"Se trata de un trabajo complejo y muy minucioso que tenemos que intentar acabar en tres días", explicó hoy a Efe una portavoz del ministerio español de Educación, Cultura y Deportes desplazada a Sarasota junto al equipo de técnicos españoles.
Por ello, a primera hora de la mañana una delegación española acudió a la sede de Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), la empresa encargada de custodiar el tesoro rescatado de las profundidades del mar en 2007 por la empresa estadounidense de exploraciones submarinas Odyssey frente a las costas de Portugal.
Esa delegación estaba integrada, entre otros, por el abogado que ha llevado todo el caso judicial frente a Odyssey, James Goold, y por el agregado cultural de la embajada de España ante Estados Unidos, Guillermo Corral.
En esa reunión se estudiaron los detalles de cómo enfocar el trabajo de inventario, según explicó a Efe la citada portavoz, que insistió en que por el momento no se puede hacer público el lugar en que está almacenado el tesoro, aunque todo apunta a que podría ser la propia sede de NGC.
El inmueble, en las afueras de Sarasota, cuenta con amplias medidas de seguridad y allí fue donde acudió la delegación este martes por la mañana.
Unas horas después, los seis técnicos desplazados desde España, especialistas del Museo Nacional de Arqueología y del de Arqueología Subacuática de Cartagena, y representantes de la Subdirección General de Protección del Patrimonio Histórico, se dirigieron hacia el lugar donde está el tesoro para iniciar sus trabajos.
Jesús García Calerocaleroje - ABC.es
Los interrogatorios de la Guardia Civil abren la puerta a nuevos expolios que se investigan en el Juzgado número 3 de La Línea.
La posibilidad siempre estuvo ahí: la hipótesis de que los cazatesoros hayan expoliado más pecios durante sus largas estancias en Gibraltar.
Los barcos de Odyssey Marine Exploration estuvieron durante al menos seis años operando en aguas del Estrecho.
Patrocinados por el Gobierno británico, que presionaba diplomáticamente para conseguir permisos, aseguraron una y otra vez a nuestras autoridades que buscaban el buque inglés «HMS Sussex». Pero después del expolio en secreto de 590.000 monedas en mayo de 2007 saltaron todas las alarmas. ¿Qué habían estado haciendo tanto tiempo en nuestras costas, si en un mes reventaron un pecio y trasladaron a Tampa 17 toneladas de monedas ?
Mientras acaba de ejecutarse la sentencia de la justicia de EE.UU. que ordena el retorno de las monedas a España, ABC ha tenido acceso a un informe de la Guardia Civil que demostraría que todas las sospechas dieron en el blanco.
Según varios testimonios de personas con contactos en Odyssey, antes de la "Mercedes" expoliaron varios pecios y tal vez en aguas españolas. Son testimonios, pero, como mínimo, la justicia española deberá seguir investigando.
En uno de ellos, mantenido ante miembros de la Brigada de Patrimonio de la Unidad Central Operativa de la Guardia Civil, el declarante relató que pudo observar en diversas ocasiones pruebas e indicios de daños al patrimonio por parte de las naves de Odyssey en aguas españolas.
En concreto, da testimonio de que varios meses antes del ya célebre expolio que tuvo lugar en mayo de 2007, extrajeron algunos objetos preciosos (metálicos) a unos 25 kilómetros del Peñón de Gibraltar, en dirección a Estepona. No son, desde luego, aguas internacionales.
Las declaraciones ante la Guardia Civil son pródigas en detalles pero, lo intresante es la información que aporta en su quinto punto de una de ellas, donde relata algo que hasta ahora no sabíamos: que «han extraído de la zona del Mediterráneo, siempre en aguas españolas, cerámica de dos pecios, uno fenicio y otro púnico».
From US News
Spain said Monday it will soon send hulking military transport planes to Florida to retrieve 17 tons of treasure that U.S. undersea explorers found but ultimately lost in American courts, a find experts have speculated could be the richest shipwreck treasure in history.
The Civil Guard said agents would leave within hours to take possession of the booty, worth an estimated euro380 million ($504 million), and two Spanish Hercules transport planes will bring it back. But it was not exactly clear when — Monday or Tuesday — the planes and the agents would leave Spain.
Last week, a federal judge ordered Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration to give Spanish officials access to the silver coins and other artifacts beginning Tuesday.
Odyssey found them in a Spanish galleon, the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, in 2007 off Portugal. Spain argued successfully in court that it never relinquished ownership of the ship or its contents.
The Spanish Culture Ministry said Monday the coins are classified as national heritage and as such must stay inside the country and will be displayed in one or more Spanish museums.
It ruled out the idea of the treasure being sold to ease Spain's national debt.
By Jesus Garcia Calero - ABC.es
La impactante victoria de España ante la Justicia de EE.UU. no ha reformado ni un ápice el comportamiento de la compañía cazatesoros Odyssey Marine Exploration, que parece buscar mil y una triquiñuelas con todos sus tentáculos para no entregar las 590.000 monedas de plata y oro, más otros restos, expoliados en 2007 y en secreto del pecio la fragata "Mercedes", hundido en 1804 frente a las costas del Cabo de Santa María.
El juez reunirá el viernes a las partes para tratar de la restitución.
De la documentación a la que ha tenido acceso ABC se desprende que la empresa que custodia las monedas desde su llegada a Tampa (llamada Numismatic Guaranty Corporation) ha podido manipular y alterar cientos de monedas y que ha decidido no entregar ni una sola hasta que España no le pague 185.159,02 dólares (a fecha de 3 de noviembre, y contando) por sus gastos de tratamiento y cuidados del material durante estos años.
Es decir, que la empresa contratada por Odyssey para desalinizar y conservar la carga expoliada ahora quiere cobrar a nuestro país por ese trabajo, que España no le pidió y que habría sido innecesario si los cazatesoros no hubieran reventado el pecio del buque de guerra español, en cuyo hundimiento perecieron 250 personas.
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) no fue elegida por casualidad para ese cometido.
Tiene tratos con Odyssey y de hecho ha firmado algunos contratos de exclusividad para la certificación y posterior venta de las monedas de oro que los cazatesoros extrajeron en 2003, por ejemplo, del "USS Republic", un barco hundido en 1865 a 100 millas de la costa de Georgia.
Pero hay más. El 3 de noviembre pasado, un representante de NGC, Steven Eichenbaum, escribió al abogado de España en el caso, James Goold, para exigirle el pago de esos casi 200.000 dólares que «aumentarán necesariamente si el tiempo pasa».
La carta añade una amenaza taxativa: «La entrega de las monedas en nuestro poder no ocurrirá hasta que ese derecho de retención haya sido satisfecho por completo».
Odyssey Marine Exploration ha perdido su última baza para frenar la entrega de las monedas obtenidas en el expolio de la fragata «Mercedes» en mayo de 2007.
El Tribuna Supremo de EE.UU. acaba de tumbar esa oportunidad al rechazar el recurso de emergencia presentado el día 6 de febrero en un intento de que el Alto Tribunal estadounidense concediese una prórroga a la empresa cazatesoros y bloquease la ejecución de la sentencia.
El hecho de que haya tardado apenas tres días en tomar la decisión es interpretado por fuentes de la Administración española como una señal más de lo imparable de la derrota de la empresa con sede en Tampa (Florida).
«Odyssey ha perdido el caso totalmente. Aunque ahora presentara otro recurso ante el Supremo para revisar el caso, la sentencia se cumplirá», afirman las mismas fuentes.
El Tribunal de Apelación de Atlanta falló el día 1 de febrero pasado contra Odyssey en el caso que la propia empresa cazatesoros había iniciado en Tampa en 2007 para exigir los derechos sobre lo que ellos llaman el «tesoro» y que no son más que los restos en metales preciosos de un naufragio acontecido en 1804 frente a las costas del Cabo de Santa María, en el que perecieron casi 250 personas, entre civiles y militares.
En cuanto el Tribunal de Distrito de Tampa reciba la sentencia de Atlanta y el auto del Supremo convocará a las partes y fijará un plazo para la devolución de las monedas y los otros efectos expoliados.
Hay que recordar que Odyssey los custodia mientras la Justicia dirimía sus derechos. Finalmente, con todas las sentencias en contra y sus recursos rechazados, la Justicia de EE.UU. se inhibe ante la capacidad de los cazatesoros de reivindicar derechos de hallazgo sobre los restos de buques de Estado en aguas internacionales.
From Fox News Latino
The Florida firm that salvaged $500 million in gold and silver coins from the bottom of the Atlantic in May 2007 will be forced to hand over the treasure to Spain unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes.
In a brief ruling seen by Efe, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta rejected on Tuesday a motion from Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. to stay the same court's November decision ordering the company to turn over the hoard.
Odyssey has asked the Supreme Court to hear its appeal, but the process put in motion by the 11th Circuit's decision will continue in the meantime.
The 11th Circuit will formally convey its decision to the District Court in Tampa that originally heard the case, which will then establish a timetable for the handover of the coins.
The formal notification should happen within the next 10 days, the attorney representing the Spanish government, James Goold, told Efe Tuesday, suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court is very unlikely to agree to consider Odyssey's appeal.
U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday ruled in December 2009 that Spain was the rightful owner of the treasure Odyssey salvaged off the Portuguese coast in the same area where the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a Spanish navy frigate, was destroyed in battle in 1804.
Within days of recovering the $500 million in coins, Odyssey took the loot to Gibraltar and loaded it onto a chartered Boeing-757 for transport back to Florida.
The treasure remains at a secret location in Florida.
Antonio Rubio - El Mundo
La Justicia de EEUU ha vuelto a dar la razón a España en el litigio que mantiene con Odyssey por la posesión del multimillonario tesoro hallado en 2007 y ha denegado a la empresa estadounidense su pretensión de suspender la ejecución de la última sentencia, que la obligaba a devolver el tesoro a España.
El pasado noviembre, un tribunal de Atlanta (EEUU) desestimó el penúltimo recurso de la empresa, cerrándole la vía judicial ordinaria tras otras dos sentencias emitidas por sendos jueces de Florida y ordenando a Odyssey que devolviera a España el tesoro submarino más valioso de todos los tiempos, procedente de la fragata española 'Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes', hundida en combate por la Armada británica frente a las costas del Algarve portugués el 5 de octubre de 1804.
La empresa reclamó entonces al tribunal que suspendieta temporalmente la ejecución de la sentencia, con el argumento de que estaba preparando el que debe ser su último cartucho, un recurso al Tribunal Supremo. Dos meses después, el tribunal de Atlanta ha respondido a la petición de forma negativa.
Al contrario, devolverá el caso al el juzgado original de Tampa (Florida) para que ejecute la sentencia; esto es, para que se devuelva el tesoro a España. Según fuentes del Ministerio de Exteriores, la resolución tardará unos 10 días en llegar al juez de Tampa, que entonces decidirá qué hacer.
El tesoro, constituido por 594.000 monedas de oro y plata cuyo valor se estima en 395 millones de euros, fue rescatado por la empresa en mayo de 2007.
No avisó de su hallazgo al Gobierno español, a pesar de que en los meses precedentes había mantenido conversaciones con el Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, y trasladó en secreto todas las monedas a EEUU, inciando el litigio que ahora está a punto de concluir.
Ello provocó una reacción inmediata tanto de Exteriores como del Ministerio de Cultura, que en los últimos cuatro años y medio no han escatimado esfuerzos por recuperar lo que se considera un expolio en toda regla del patrimonio histórico nacional.
J.G.Galero - ABC
Fuentes consultadas por ABC aseguran que la intención de la empresa es recurrir ahora ante el Tribunal Supremo para no tener que devolver el tesoro de la "Mercedes".
El Tribunal de Apelaciones de Atlanta ha desestimado el recurso presentado por la empresa Odyssey Marine Exploration contra la sentencia que le obliga a entregar a España el tesoro de la fragata española "Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes", según ha confirmado el abogado James Goold.
Fuentes diplomáticas consultadas por ABC aseguran que la intención de Odyssey es recurrir ahora ante el Tribunal Supremo. Se calcula en un 80% las probabilidades de que los cazatesoros traten de llevar el caso hasta el final.
Pero lo cierto es que el Supremio estadounidense no atiende todos los casos que se le presentan, sino aquellos en los que puede aclarar criterios con su jurisprudencia.
Siendo así, lo más probable es que decline aceptar el caso, dada la unanimidad de las sentencias en todas las instancias, que hasta ahora han dado la razón a España en la batalla legal por la carga de la fragata "Mercedes".
En caso de que Odyssey ni siquiera intente llevar el caso al Supremo, lo más seguro es que el Tribunal de Atlanta les dé un muy breve plazo de tiempo para devolver las monedas a España.
Nuestro país tiene el plan de retorno del material expoliado preparado desde hace meses.
La sentencia que Odyssey recurrió ante el Tribunal de Apelaciones de Atlanta reconoce los derechos del Estado español sobre la embarcación y su cargamento y ordena la devolución y entrega a España de todas las monedas y objetos extraídos del pecio.
Photo Jouni Polkko
The National Board of Antiquities has asked police to begin an investigation into the unauthorised removal of objects from historic shipwrecks in Finnish waters. Objects have been removed from some underwater sites and damage inflicted on some finds.
The thefts are believed to have taken place during the summer months of this year.
According to the National Board of Antiquities, two 19th century shipwrecks, the steamship Sandviken and a trading vessel, the Edmund, have both been targeted by thieves. The Sandviken, in waters off Kirkkonummi in the south, has had its ship's bell stolen. The aft cabin of the Edmund, in waters near Järvön in the Gulf of Bothnia, has been emptied of objects including bottles and clay jars. The structure of the Edmund has also been damaged.
Thieves have also taken porcelain dishes and bottles from the wreck of an 18th century warship in waters off of Porvoo.
Experts say that without proper conservation, objects brought up from the wrecks will not survive for long.
Old shipwrecks are protected by law. Divers are allowed to visit such sites, but the wrecks and associated artifacts may not be disturbed or in any way damaged.
Enésimo recurso del Odyssey para no devolver al tesoro a España rechazado. A los cazatesoros solo les queda el Supremo. Lo cuenta en ALBA Pedro García Luaces.
El Undécimo Tribunal de Apelaciones de Atlanta (Estados Unidos) rechazó, el pasado día 21 de septiembre, el recurso interpuesto por la empresa Odyssey contra la sentencia de 2009 que resolvía a favor de los intereses españoles sobre la propiedad de las 594.000 monedas de oro y plata rescatadas del fondo marino.
A la empresa cazatesoros no le queda más salida que la elevación del caso al Supremo, un tribunal que no admite a trámite más que un pequeño porcentaje de los casos que recibe. Podría decirse que bien está lo que bien acaba, pero el periplo de Odyssey dejó un sinfín de decisiones controvertidas que pusieron de manifiesto la descoordinación entre Administraciones y una evidente pasividad en la gestión del suceso.
Según su versión oficial, la empresa Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. llegó a las costas españolas en busca del barco británico HMS Sussex, hundido en 1694 por un vendaval cuando cargaba un botín destinado a comprar el apoyo de la Casa de Saboya en el conflicto que mantenían los Habsburgo con la Francia de Luis XIV.
Entre 2000 y 2006, la empresa cazatesoros pudo hacer una completa cartografía submarina de la zona, campando a sus anchas por aguas de jurisdicción española sin contar con más permiso que una autorización del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores –sin competencia en la materia.
Odyssey había firmado un acuerdo con Reino Unido para repartirse la carga del Sussex, de ahí la mediación de este Gobierno con el Ministerio de Miguel Ángel Moratinos para que autorizase el trabajo de la empresa cazatesoros, aprovechando las relaciones iniciadas en el marco del Foro Tripartito.
En mayo de 2007, la empresa Odyssey anuncia el hallazgo en aguas internacionales de un botín de 17 toneladas de oro y plata encontradas junto a un pecio al que se pone el nombre en clave de Cisne Negro.
El anuncio resulta ser contraproducente para los intereses de la empresa, ya que pone a las autoridades españolas sobre la pista del cargamento, pero Odyssey necesita hacerlo público para revalorizar sus acciones. La empresa se resiste a aportar más información sobre el lugar o el nombre del pecio del que extrajo la carga, por lo que proliferan las especulaciones sobre un expolio en toda regla, ya no sólo de un barco de guerra español, sino de un pecio hundido a menos de 12 millas de nuestra costa; es decir, en aguas de jurisdicción española.
Odyssey conocía la localización de La Mercedes y mantuvo dos operaciones secretas y simultáneas, una en el Mediterráneo y otra en el Atlántico.
By Markus Junianto Sihaloho - Jakarta Globe
The government has launched an investigation into alleged looting by shipwreck salvage diver Michael Hatcher, who has a long history with Indonesia and is believed to be operating on a new discovery.
Aji Sularso, an official with the National Committee for the Salvage and Utilization of Valuable Objects from Sunken Ships (Pannas BMKT), said on Wednesday it had established a joint investigation team comprising related government institutions. “We are investigating the case,” Aji said.
He was responding to complaints by the Consortium for Rescuing National Assets (KPAB), which alleged the government had not responded to its report regarding Hatcher, who may hold both British and Australian passports.
Endro Soebekti Sadjilman, from the KPAB, said he had solid evidence of the alleged looting.
“We’ve heard he’s in Blanakan waters near Pamanukan in Subang [West Java],” he said. “The government must arrest him.”
Daniel Nafis, from the Institute for Strategic Interest and Development (INSIDe), a member of the consortium, claims Hatcher’s illegal salvage missions in Indonesia began with the discovery of the wreck of the Vec De Geldermalsen in East Bintan, Riau Islands, from which he recovered Chinese porcelain that was auctioned for $20 million.
That mission prompted the Indonesian government to establish Pannas BMKT, to monitor all salvage missions.
In 1999, Hatcher raised 365,000 porcelain items from the wreck of the Chinese junk Tek Sing, which ran aground off southern Sumatra in 1822, constituting the biggest find of its type ever.
On that mission, Nafis said, Hatcher worked with local operator PT Pratama Cakra Dirga.
“The government only found out about it from Australian customs officials,” he said. “They said 43 containers of porcelain were ready to be sent to Germany.”
Jesus Garcia Calero - ABC
El Tribunal de Apelación del Undécimo Circuito de Atlanta ha fallado hace tan solo unas horas rotundamente a favor de España en el juicio contra Odyssey Marine Exploration, dando la razón al Tribunal de distrito de Florida que juzgó el caso y emitió una sentencia ejemplarizante contra los cazatesoros en los primeros días del mes de junio de 2009.
Los responsables de Odyssey son derrotados en todos los puntos por la justicia americana que ha determinado que la fragata expoliada, un buque hundido en 1804 durante la batalla del Cabo de Santa María llamado «La Mercedes», es un buque de Estado y no un barco mercante, y también un cementerio de casi 300 marinos españoles que se hundieron con sus restos.
El general Diego de Alvear perdió en el naufragio a casi toda su familia, su esposa y dos hijos, después de que el fuego alcanzase la Santa Bárbara haciendo estallar la fragata «Mercedes» que, además, iba cargada de monedas de oro y plata. Los cazatesoros llenaron dos aviones con las monedas acuñadas en «El Callao» y las trasladaron en secreto desde el aeropuerto de Gibraltar con destino a su base en Tampa en mayo de 2007.
La polémica generada por este caso ha cambiado la conciencia sobre el patrimonio sumergido en España y ha cortado las alas a la influencia que Odyssey tenía en las altas instancias estadounidenses.
La decisiva ayuda de la US Navy a España, con informes técnicos, más la personación del Gobierno de Washington en favor de nuestra causa ha restado apoyos a los amigos del patrimonio ajeno. Entre los accionistas de Odyssey figuran senadores y miembros de la clase política de Washington que ahora ven afeada la conducta expoliadora.
By Thom Weidlich - Bloomberg
Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. (OMEX) fell as much as 44 percent as an appeals court upheld a ruling that property it recovered from a sunken ship code-named “Black Swan” must be returned to Spain.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta affirmed the lower- court ruling in a decision today.
“The district court did not err when it ordered Odyssey to release” the property to Spain, the appeals court said.
In December 2009, U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday in Tampa, Florida, backed Spain’s position on the treasure from the ship, whose full name is Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, and dismissed the case that Odyssey Marine had brought. Merryday had said Odyssey could hold the property while it pursued its appeal.
Odyssey fell to $1.80 before closing at $2.16, down 33 percent, in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.
The company will ask the full appeals court to rehear the case, it said in a statement.
“While we were surprised by the ruling and are obviously not pleased with the opinion, there is no near-term economic impact on the company,” President Mark Gordon said in the statement.
Odyssey, which searches for sunken treasure, said in May 2007 it recovered more than 17 tons (15,422 kilograms) of silver coins from the ship, which went down in the Atlantic Ocean off the Strait of Gibraltar.
By Brian Reyes - Gibraltar Chronicle
Leaked US diplomatic correspondence has laid bare the strain that the Odyssey controversy placed on bilateral relations between the UK and Spain.
The cable from the US embassy in Madrid to the Secretary of State in Washington was sent in 2007 shortly after Odyssey Marine Exploration returned to Gibraltar with a valuable treasure it had recovered in the Atlantic.
Spain claimed the “Black Swan” treasure and the presence of two Odyssey ships in the military base in Gibraltar prompted angry diplomatic exchanges at a time when Britain, Spain and Gibraltar were attempting to negotiate important agreements under the trilateral forum for dialogue.
On June 26 of that year, Britain´s then ambassador in Madrid, Denise Holt, paid a courtesy call on her US counterpart, Eduardo Aguirre, and spoke about the case in detail.
She said “...tensions with Spain over Odyssey were continuing to pose an unnecessary threat on the two countries´ bilateral relationship,” the cable noted.
“The British Embassy in Madrid is now intent in distancing themselves as much as possible from the dispute between Odyssey and Spain,” it added.
“Having suffered the brunt of the backlash both in the press and with their interactions with GoS, Ambassador Holt wants to salvage their relationship and improve cooperation between the two countries on the sensitive matter of Gibraltar.”
“The Ambassadors agreed that the Odyssey “treasure find” should not weaken bilateral relations between three allies and that both countries should encourage Odyssey and Spain to find a satisfactory solution to the dispute..”
Part of Spain´s concern was that the treasure had been flown from Gibraltar to Florida and officials in Madrid, initially at least, suspected that British authorities had aided the company. Likewise the two Odyssey ships were berthed in the Ministry of Defence naval base, where they had been regular callers for many years, prompting further suspicions.
Mrs Holt told the US ambassador that Britain was in no way linked to the Black Swan haul and that the only link was the contractual agreement with the MoD to salvage the wreck of an English galleon, HMS Sussex, which lay off Gibraltar.
She told Mr Aguirre that Britain´s contract with Odyssey would be reviewed “in an attempt to terminate” it.
“Holt noted that she would be describing to London the impact that the Odyssey controversy was having locally on bilateral relations (as well as on Gibraltar issues),” the cable said.
“She confirmed that though the two Odyssey vessels were in port in Gibraltar, the British would not aid the vessels when and if they should sail out.”
Both vessels sailed from the Rock some weeks after the cable was sent and both were detained by Spanish authorities in international waters and taken to Algeciras, where they were searched and later released.
The state Museum Authority has been ordered to get more evidence on reports that hundreds of underwater artefacts from dozens of shipwrecks off the Tanjung Tuan coast here have been stolen by relic hunters.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the evidence was crucial for the state government to file a police report on the alleged theft of these submerged treasures.
“I will ask the relevant authorities to conduct a probe in a bid to get more proof for the police and also to execute legal action against the culprits.
“There were reports that irresponsible individuals had gone underwater to take away the national treasures that are worth billions.
“But information on such thefts remains vague due to lack of eye-witnesses,” he said after flagging off participants of the Perodua Eco-Challenge 2011 at the Melaka International Motorsport Circuit in Ayer Keroh here yesterday.
A special night vision camera will be mounted at the top of the lighthouse in Tanjung Tuan to prevent more of these relics from being stolen, said Mohd Ali.
There were claims by maritime industry players that hundreds of these undersea artefacts had been looted since the late 1990s.
One mariner, who only wanted to be identified as Toh, said treasures such as Chinese blue and white porcelain, brassware and coins were stolen from the shipwrecks.
Last month, the state government announced a billion-ringgit offer to salvage companies to retrieve treasures from sunken ships along the Malacca coastline.
There were no takers and Toh believed the lukewarm response was due to the fact that not many priceless artefacts were left.
At least 13 merchant and war vessels are known to have sunk in the Malacca sea on the Spice Route more than 500 years ago.
By Jan Gamm - Round Town News
Deep-sea explorers Odyssey Marine Exploration, based in Florida, appealed on Tuesday to have a previous Tampa court decision overturned: that a 17-ton treasure estimated to be worth $500 million recovered from the wrecked Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes off the coast of Portugal belongs to Spain.
The Mercedes was sunk by the British Navy in 1804. Although Spain was neutral in the war between Britain and France it had shown signs of declaring an alliance with France.
In a confrontation off the Portugese coast, the commander of the Mercedes, Rear-Admiral Don José Bustamente, was requested by British Vice-Admiral Sir Graham Moore (a close friend of Admiral Lord Nelson) to change course and set sail for England. Bustamente refused and instead fired on the British gunships. A brief skirmish resulted in the sinking of the Mercedes and the surrender of the rest of the fleet.
In May 2007, Odyssey started an international row with Spain when it announced that it had raised more than 500,000 silver coins and other artifacts from the wreck and cheekily flown the treasure back to Tampa.
Spain promptly registered ownership with the US District Court in Tampa and Odyssey countered with its own dispute of the valuable cargo, claiming it was recovered from a commercial vessel (treasure recovered from a vessel involved in commerce is ‘finders keepers’, whereas cargo recovered from a warship is not).
The case rests on whether the ship was classed as a merchant vessel. Odyssey’s lawyers claim the ship’s gun deck was crammed with merchandise rendering it unable to fight. Spain insists the wreck was a “sacred grave” and the US should hand the case over to be resolved in the Spanish courts.
The results of the case could alter the outcome of many more legal battles over treasure hunts and the American Justice Department is now also applying pressure to have the case transferred to the Spanish courts to protect jurisdiction over the legal status of future discoveries: the US has around 3,000 sunken warships and planes on the ocean floor.
The outcome of this case is expected to set a benchmark for the legal framework of global treasure hunting.
From the Irish Times
The 49-metre, 400-ton German vessel UC-42, which sank in 1917 during a mine-laying operation, also appears to have been damaged by salvagers attempting to remove one of its propellers.
The Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s antiquities unit was alerted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s underwater archaeology unit. Also involved are the Customs maritime unit, the National Museum of Ireland and, now, locally-based gardaí.
Connie Kelleher, of the underwater archaeology unit, said she had received several reports from divers about the desecration of the site through removal of crew members’ effects.
“Included in these reports to us, from concerned divers who do not agree with the pillaging of the site, are details of human remains being evident on the wreck site,” she said.
“To date, we have received reports of the structure being recently damaged by divers attempting to remove parts of it; of items that belonged to the crew being taken off the site; and that one of the propellers was being made ready to be recovered, as evidenced by recent work to it.”
She added that she and other divers with her unit intended to dive on the site to assess it as soon as weather permitted.
She has alerted the Irish Underwater Council (IUC), the main representative body of diving clubs in Ireland, seeking its assistance in raising awareness of the problem and said she had also contacted the Naval Service.
Martin Kiely, the IUC’s national diving officer, said the council’s code of conduct forbade members from interfering with wrecks or sea life and required them to respect all dive sites. “We would take a very dim view of people taking stuff from wrecks,” he said.
Ms Kelleher said the German embassy had indicated its “legitimate interest” in the wreck’s protection and preservation.
“The site has a particular sensitivity due to it being a relatively recent German naval loss with crew who are known by name, many of whom are likely to have close living relatives,” she said.
Photo Kurt Reese
By Travis J. Tritten - Stars and Stripes
A plaque looted from a World War II destroyer sunk off Okinawa has been returned, but the mystery surrounding its disappearance remains.
The builder’s plaque on the USS Emmons was pried from inside the shipwreck sometime last year by scuba-diving thieves, triggering a Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation in September and an appeal by Okinawa divers that the historic plaque be returned.
The trail went cold for months, and many believed the artifact would never be recovered.
Then on April 7 — one day after the anniversary of the ship’s sinking in 1945 — a package arrived in the mail for Yukio Murata, chairman of the Okinawa Diving Safety Council.
It had been sent from a Naha post office and the only evidence of the sender was the name “Jason” written in Japanese characters, Murata told Stars and Stripes on Friday.
The missing Emmons plaque, a record of the laying of the destroyer’s keel by the Bath Iron Works in 1940 that had rested in the darkness of 135 feet of ocean for over six decades, was inside the package.
Murata, whose efforts were key in recovering the stolen plaque, immediately turned the plaque over to NCIS.
Murata said when he learned of the theft, he offered his help to NCIS, American dive groups and a USS Emmons veteran group in the United States. He also contacted about 300 dive shops on the island to ask that the thief return the artifact.
“I felt there were spirits who are still in that ship and it was important to return the plaque to them,” said Murata, who was presented Friday with a $1,500 reward by the Okinawa Underwater Explorers dive group for his help finding the ship plaque.
By Stephenie Livingston - Suwannee Democrat
For countless years divers have searched the pitch-black waters of the Suwannee River for remnants of the area’s most early inhabitants.
Authorities warn that collecting Native American and prehistoric artifacts is an illegal activity that has the potential to negatively impact local river ecosystems and archaeological research.
And officials are cracking down on offenders. Two arrests were made in December after two people were discovered collecting artifacts at Little River Springs, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Karen Parker said.
Last year, the agency made a total of 14 cases statewide. So far in 2011, the FWC has made five cases on illegal artifacts digging, four in Alachua County and one in Washington County.
“Archaeological sites consist of much more than the artifacts displayed in museums,” Parker said by email Wednesday.
The state’s view is that the artifacts are to be left alone - period.
“Also, the artifacts and sites are owned by the people of Florida, and cannot be studied or appreciated if they are removed,” said Florida Department of State Communications Director Chris Cate, who spoke in support of efforts by state archaeologists.
Those archaeologists, and others, piece together the past. When one piece is disturbed, such as an arrowhead or pottery shard, the entire puzzle can become compromised.
Parker said where the artifacts lay in relation to others in a site provide clues for archaeologists to follow that can help determine how the object was used, made and lost by Florida’s ancestors. Parker added that the fragile surroundings can sometimes provide more information than the artifact itself.
“When artifacts are moved, or the site disrupted, the context is destroyed, and unlike a pot that can be glued back together, when context is destroyed it can never be recreated,” she said.
And, most of the artifacts found by amateurs are lost forever.
“Many of the artifacts removed from Florida rivers are sold on eBay and other internet sites, leaving the state for good,” said Cate.
“Archaeologists and other members of the public have no opportunity to study or learn from these items. Our agency encourages preservation of artifacts and sites in place.”
Two men have been arrested over the suspected theft of artefacts from sites in the Thames Estuary, including the protected wreck of HMS London, a 17th century warship.
The arrests yesterday followed raids in East Kent on two homes, one business address and a dive boat at Gravesend.
The raids were carried out by police officers from Kent and Essex, archaeologists from English Heritage and officials from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, including the Receiver of Wreck.
At one address they found what is believed to be a 16th century Dutch cannon from the London, worth an estimated £40,000.
In clean condition it sat partially immersed in a tarpaulin-covered trough of water in a back garden.
Other artefacts found at the same address included deck fittings, lead, china, glass and portholes.
The arrested men are being interviewed at a Kent police station. Police are examining materials including business records and computer images.
The arrests follow the February launch of the Alliance to Reduce Crimes Against Heritage (ARCH), intended to harden up enforcement of heritage law.
Under ARCH, various authorities are working in a more symbiotic way to improve investigative efficiency.
Speaking at one of the raid locations Alison Kentuck, Receiver of Wreck, told the BBC that the aim was to use “the same information to the best of its ability, to share resources to achieve an end result”.
An East Grinstead man has been cautioned for helping himself to historic shipwreck artefacts.
The 64-year-old man salvaged numerous pieces of galleon wood off the coast of Sussex, which he fashioned into items for sale including tables, mirrors and bookcases.
His identity has not been revealed by police but he is named as Keith on a website showcasing his merchandise.
Asked by the Courier & Observer if he knew the recovery was illegal, he replied "not at all".
The caution follows an investigation into two shipwrecks off the Sussex coastline conducted by Sussex Police in conjunction with English Heritage and the Receiver of Wreck who represents the government.
Among items listed for sale on the man's website are candle holders, for about £24 and lamp shade stands, for up to £245.
Receiver of Wreck Alison Kentuck said the legal owner of wreck material is always entitled to have their property back if, for example, it is found by divers or snorkelers.
She added: "On this occasion, alleged offences included damaging protected historic wrecks and removing material from them.
"This related particularly to the protected wrecks of the Anne, a 70-gun ship of the line that was run ashore in Rye Bay and burnt after the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690, and the Amsterdam, a Dutch VOC ship that was beached at Bulverhythe in 1749 after the crew mutinied."
Now that the artefacts have been recovered, the Receiver of Wreck begins a process to find the legal owner.
If the owner cannot be found within one year, the artefacts become the property of the crown or a grantee – a landowning beneficiary.
Bahamas Press is following at this hour the arrest of an American who resides in Freeport. We can tell you guest was arrested in the Walker’s Cay area in the Northern Bahamas a few days ago.
Alex Gardiner we are told by investigators was taken into custody for treasure hunting.
Early investigations tell us the accused had come across sunken treasures discovered at the bottom of the sea in a Spanish galleon in the area.
Reports allege the American began salvaging and looting the wreck; shipping the items into foreign territory.
We are told there was no formal notice made to the Government of the Bahamas for the excavations nor was there any license granted for such.
No communication of his arrest or the discovery of the vessels has been announced by the Ingraham government, but meetings with the King of Spain we believe could soon find new happiness around the table.
The vessels we are told by historians when sunk was been laden with gold and artifacts with a value into the Billions if traded on the world market today.
By Steve Peacock - This Is South Devon
An illegal dive on a protected South Devon wreck site has been highlighted in news of a new crackdown on heritage crime.
English Heritage has brought in a top cop to lead the fight against the growing number of heritage crimes ranging from vandal attacks on historic buildings to damaging illegal excavations by treasure hunters local for historic valuable.
Illegal diving on wreck and illegal metal detector expeditions on protected sites are part of what is believed to be a growing problem.
An English Heritage report revealed that the Salcombe Canon site, just off the coast between Prawle Point and the entrance to Salcombe Harbour, has 'suffered vandalism and damage by rogue divers and unauthorised fishing vessels'.
The site of the 17th Century shipwreck is protected by law.
The report added: "Swift action by the coastguard and the police resulted in the offenders being given a formal warning and they also put an open message of apology in a popular diving magazine."
The South West region has been chose as a pilot area for the crack down because of the large number of sensitive historic sites in the area.
Problems have included the theft of lead from historic roofs and 4x4 drivers using historic areas as race tracks.
Representatives from more than 40 organisations, ranging from the National Trust, the Church of England, Crimestoppers and Ministry of Defence to National Parks, the Woodland Trust and the Historic Houses Association have met to form the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage.
Local history societies, amenity groups, neighbourhood watch and residents associations will be encouraged to raise awareness of the risk of criminal damage to historic sites and buildings in their area.
By Dale Fuchs - The Independent
For 200 years, the silver coins settled silently into the Atlantic seabed, 3,000 feet beneath the waves. They gathered in clumps like rocks across a vast swath of ocean floor near southern Portugal, crusting over with sediment and weighing a total of 17 tonnes.
The coins were certainly of no use to the 250 sailors who carried them from Peru on what was probably the Spanish frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, which sank in 1804, torn apart by British cannon fire.
But now, transported from their watery-yet-lucrative grave to litigious landlubbers, those 600,000 idle coins, reportedly worth up to $500 million, are working overtime.
They have sparked a high-stakes legal battle in the United States between Spain, which claims ownership of the bounty, and Odyssey Marine Exploration, the American shipwreck-hunting company that detected it with hi-tech robots, extricated it from the seabed and flew it in bucketfuls to Florida in 2007.
And they have dredged up murky questions about ownership and preservation of the three million shipwrecks that Unesco believes still rest on the world's ocean floors.
Most recently those crusty coins, believed to be the largest collection from a single deep-water site, have a caused diplomatic embarrassment too, thanks to US State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.
They revealed the latest, and highly unlikely, weapon in the transatlantic skirmish over the sunken treasure: an impressionist painting by Camille Pissarro, entitled Rue Saint-Honore, Apres Midi, Effet de Pluie.
This painting, valued at $20 million, hangs in Madrid's Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, ostensibly sharing nothing in common with naval strife or shipwrecks except perhaps the rain water which splashes on Pissarro's grey Parisian street.
An internationally watched deep-sea treasure case, set to be heard in federal appeals court in Atlanta this March, is a good example of why shipwreck salvage companies don’t leave port without their attorneys.
The “Black Swan” case centers on a $500 million undersea treasure — 17 tons of silver coins and other artifacts found off the Atlantic coast of Spain in 2007. The treasure was discovered by Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc.
The stunning legal entanglements that can arise from these types of recovery cases is why Odyssey Marine Exploration’s board of directors is chaired by Emory...
Anna Grau - ABC Cultura
Odyssey Marine Exploration, la empresa de Tampa, Florida, obligada por los propios tribunales de Estados Unidos a restituir a España el tesoro del galeón español «Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes» del que se había apropiado, trata ahora de darle la vuelta a aquella sentencia agarrándose a los cables secretos de Wikileaks.
Concretamente a aquellos que relatan que el Departamento de Estado habló con el ministerio de Cultura español tanto de este asunto como de la petición de devolución a una familia de California de un cuadro de Camille Pissarro sustraído por los nazis, y que actualmente es propiedad del Museo Thyssen.
A Odyssey le ha faltado tiempo para coger el rábano por las hojas y concluir, no que el gobierno americano trataba de mantener unas relaciones de intercambio cultural respetuoso entre los dos países, sino que habría «sacrificado» los intereses de los piratas de Florida a los de los descendientes californianos de los expoliados por los nazis.
Entonces se han dirigido a los tribunales para ver de impugnar la sentencia en su contra, presentándola como un manejo de la Casa Blanca.
Ciertamente, el Departamento de Justicia se pronunció a favor de la devolución del tesoro a España.
From Gibraltar Chronicle
Odyssey Marine Exploration, the US deep-ocean exploration company, has filed a Motion to Strike a brief filed by the United States government in support of Spain in the ‘Black Swan’ case.
The case is currently pending in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the US, where Odyssey appealing a lower court’s decision to order the company to return the ‘Black Swan’ treasure to Spain.
If the US motion is not struck out, Odyssey has asked the court to direct the US government to amend its statement to accurately reflect its interest in the case.
The latest filing follows a number of revelations about the Black Swan case detailed in leaked diplomatic cables published by the whistleblower website Wikileaks last month.
Odyssey said the released cables suggest that the US State Department offered special assistance to Spanish officials in the ‘Black Swan’ case in exchange for assistance in acquiring, on behalf of a US citizen, a French painting confiscated by the Nazis during World War II and now on display in a museum in Madrid.
By - Coin News
Legal proceedings that date back over two years continue in the dispute over recovered sunken coin treasure as lawyers for the company in possession of the treasure filed a new motion in the matter.
Odyssey Marine Exploration, based in Tampa, Florida, directed its legal team to file a Motion to Strike the amicus brief filed by the United States in support of Spain in the "Black Swan" case currently pending before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. If the court opts to not strike the brief, Odyssey seeks to have the court direct the United States government to amend its statement of interest to more accurately reflect its true position on the matter.
The motion is in direct response to several U.S. State Department cables obtained and recently released by the website WikiLeaks which indicated that the U.S. State Department was willing to offer assistance to the country of Spain against Odyssey. In exchange, U.S. diplomats were asking for help in the return of a painting now in a Madrid museum, but believed to be confiscated from its rightful owners by the Nazis in the 1930′s.
"We have brought to the Court’s attention the evidence suggesting that the involvement of the U.S. Executive Branch in the ‘Black Swan‘ case goes beyond its interest in interpreting applicable laws," states Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey Vice President and General Counsel.
"The U.S. Government’s interest appears to have been related to a promise of support for Spain in exchange for assistance in obtaining this painting for a U.S. citizen. This calls into question whether there may have been any other offers of support in exchange for favors completely unrelated to this case. Any interest in the case of the U.S. beyond those stated in their filing should warrant striking the amicus brief or at the very least, require a full explanation of the motives behind their support of Spain."
By Richard Giedroyc - Numismater
France recently seized an unannounced number of third century A.D. Roman gold coins as well as an ancient gold plate allegedly with a pedigree linking the material to the Lava Treasure, according to an Oct. 27 announcement.
The Lava Treasure, consisting primarily of ancient Roman gold coins, received its name because the find was discovered accidentally by fishermen diving in the Gulf of Lava. The gulf is off the west coast of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea. Corsica belongs to France.
The Lava Treasure was first encountered about 25 years ago when three Corsicans diving for sea urchins spotted gold in the shallow waters there. The rest of the story can likely be nicely summarized by the official French national police statement released Oct. 27 in which it says, “This submerged treasure, identified as a maritime cultural asset, belongs to the state.”
It is the words “cultural asset,” which could also be reworded as “cultural patrimony,” that is the key, especially when it involves coins rather than fine art or other objects.
As Ancient Coin Collectors Guild spokesman Wayne G. Sayles commented in the October 2010 issue of The Celator magazine, “[coins are] utilitarian objects that were created in the millions and are not in any way of significant cultural value to any state.”
Had this find been discovered off the coast of Great Britain, as an example, the find could have been declared as treasure trove and the finders could have at least received a reward for their efforts. Being that the find was on French territory there was to be no imbursement, and likely not even a “thank you.”
As the police statement reads, the find “belongs to the state.”
Cyprus, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and a host of other countries have restrictive laws governing finds of this nature in which the find is automatically claimed by a government as that government’s cultural patrimony.
The finders have no rights to the find and for practical purposes might as well have reburied the find where it was discovered.
From The Guardian
Friday, 07 September 2007, 10:49
UNCLAS MADRID 001722 - SIPDIS - SENSITIVE - SIPDIS - STATE FOR EUR/WE, L, AND OES - EO 12958 N/A
TAGS PREL, EWWT, PBTS, PHSA, SCUL, SP">SP"="">SP">SP">SP"="">SP">SP">SP, CA
SUBJECT: ODYSSEY UPDATE: DHS DELIVERS CUSTOMS INFORMATION
REF: MADRID 1670 AND PREVIOUS
1. (SBU) On September 6, DHS-ICE Attache delivered the Odyssey Customs import documents to Director of Aduanas Nicolas Bonilla, as requested by GOS via the Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) on July 24. The DHS-ICE Attache advised Bonilla that the information was confidential and to be used only for law enforcement purposes. Bonilla expressed appreciation for the information, and assured the DHS-ICE Attache that it would be used only for official purposes. He added that Aduanas would make a formal request through DHS channels before sharing the documents with any other GOS agency. Post advised MFA representatives of this exchange the afternoon of September 6.
2. (SBU) Separately, the MFA sent Post a diplomatic note September 4 in response to the Ambassador's August 29 meeting with Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos (ref). MFA officials advised us verbally that they will seek the Odyssey information through their Aduanas, acknowledging that Aduanas would first have to seek the necessary permission from DHS. Jorge Domecq, MFA's Deputy Director for Gibraltar Issues, noted that MFA was interested in obtaining the Odyssey customs information to provide to lawyers representing the GOS in the Tampa Admiralty Court.
3. (SBU) Meanwhile, the Odyssey Explorer remains docked in Gibraltar and has not yet unloaded its cargo. According to British Embassy representatives, Odyssey representatives have stated that the vessel will begin unloading its cargo the week of September 10.
4. (SBU) Below is an informal translation of Foreign Ministry diplomatic note 277/31 dated August 31, which was provided to the Embassy on September 4.
By Darrin Lee Unser - Coin News
Legal proceedings continue in the contentious battle over sunken coin treasure as a Court of Appeals has granted a request for oral arguments at the behest of a salvage company.
Odyssey Marine Exploration was recently notified that the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit would hear oral arguments on the case that is currently pending before it between Odyssey and the country of Spain. At issue is the ownership of over 500,000 Colonial-period silver coins that were recovered from the bottom of the ocean by Odyssey.
Given a project name of "Black Swan" by Odyssey, the initial recovery took place in 2007 off the coast of Gibraltar and proved to be controversial almost immediately. Within weeks of 17-tons of coin treasure being sent to Florida by Odyssey, Spain seized vessels belonging to the company, forcing them to port in order to conduct searches to protect against a possible "offence against Spanish historic heritage."
Furthering the matter, Spain filed claims in the United States contending that the treasure was from a Spanish ship known as the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes which had sunk in Spanish waters, and therefore the property of Spain. Spain has since conceded that the shipwreck was not in Spanish waters, but still lays claim to its contents.
Odyssey, however, affirms that even if the Black Swan treasure was from the Mercedes, which it says can not be confirmed as there no vessel and the findings were discovered directly on the sea floor, the ship was on a commercial voyage. It states that at the time of the sinking in 1804, the Mercedes was transporting private passengers, mail and other cargo rendering it a private vessel. As such, its commericial purpose legally voids Spain’s claim under settled international law and conventions.
Photo Felix Biancamaria
Christophe Cornevin - Le Figaro
Il avait été englouti il y a 1700 ans au large d'Ajaccio. Puis retrouvé et en partie dispersé. De nouvelles pièces émergent enfin.
Une enquête marathon, longue d'un quart de siècle, a été nécessaire avant que le fabuleux trésor de Lava ne refasse surface.
Englouti il y a 1700 ans dans une petite anse au large d'Ajaccio, il a fait rêver des générations de pilleurs d'épaves et de pêcheurs d'or, fantasmer les plus grands archéologues et cauchemarder des services entiers de police, de gendarmerie et des douanes qui courent après le magot composé d'un millier de pièces d'or presque pur - 28 carats -, mais aussi de médaillons et d'une fantastique collection de vaisselle en métal précieux.
Ces vestiges remontent à l'époque romaine. Plus précisément au IIIe siècle de notre ère, au moment de la décadence de l'Empire. Après Gallien, Claude II le Gothique puis son frère Quintillus prennent le pouvoir avant que ne règne Aurélien.
La légende veut qu'un haut dignitaire, fuyant une révolte, ait pris la mer à Ostie entre mars 271 et novembre 273 à destination de l'Afrique du Nord, via la Corse. Dans les soutes de sa galère à voiles et à rames, il transporte son précieux chargement, qui n'arrivera jamais à bon port.
Son navire aurait pris feu avant de sombrer au large d'Ajaccio.
Le préjudice est colossal. Il est estimé à plusieurs centaines de millions d'euros - certaines pièces valent 250.000 euros l'unité. Le trésor présente un intérêt scientifique majeur: «Certaines pièces n'ont peut-être jamais circulé et des objets extrêmement significatifs pourraient nous enseigner nombre de choses sur cette période troublée de l'histoire romaine», estime Michel L'Hour, conservateur général du patrimoine, à la tête de la Direction des recherches archéologiques sous-marines (Drasm).
De manière tout à fait mystérieuse, 41 premières pièces d'or, aurei ou multiples, surgissent sur le marché en 1956. Elles sont dispersées aux enchères et font l'objet d'une publication savante établie par Jean Lafaurie, directeur des études de numismatique romaine à l'École pratique des hautes études.
Trente ans plus tard, une petite dizaine d'employés corses, plongeurs amateurs, découvrent un peu par hasard d'autres pièces au fond de la baie de Lava, qu'ils vendent à la terrasse des cafés pour 50.000 francs et s'acheter des BMW, caisses de champagne et magnétoscopes.
Puis, ils trouvent des relais parmi les collectionneurs parisiens chez qui ils dispersent le reste du butin. La justice est saisie et huit pilleurs sont mis en examen.
En novembre 1986, une partie du lot qui se retrouve mis à l'encan au Sporting d'hiver de Monte-Carlo est à son tour confisquée par les douanes.
Parmi les dix-huit pièces rarissimes se trouve un médaillon Gallien, d'une valeur de 150.000 euros et dont il existe trois exemplaires au monde. L'affaire avait défrayé la chronique.
By Leigh Thomas - Reuters
French police said on Wednesday they had seized a significant portion of an ancient Roman treasure that was discovered more than two decades ago by Corsican divers who became rich by secretly selling it off.
The seizure is the latest chapter in the exploits of a then young Corsican and two friends who spotted gold in shallow waters 25 years ago while diving for sea urchins off the coast of the Mediterranean island.
The three friends enriched themselves by selling the coins and medallions on the black market and later claimed that they had inherited them when the source of their newfound wealth was discovered by the local authorities.
Police did not say on Wednesday from whom they had recovered the latest portion of the treasure, which likely came from an ancient shipwreck. Specialists consider the find to be one of the most important related to ancient coins, dating from the 3rd century AD.
"This submerged treasure, identified as a maritime cultural asset, belongs to the state," France's national police said in a statement, after a long investigation into national and international black markets for antiquities.
One of the original three Corsican friends, Felix Biancamaria, told French daily Liberation in 2005 how the discovery of what he quickly suspected were Roman coins brought him and his fellow divers untold wealth and thrills until the party soured when local police caught wind of their exploits.
By Travis J. Tritten - Stars and Stripes
Sometime in the past three months, a group of unknown scuba divers drifted 135 feet down into the deep blue waters here.
Their destination was the ghostly wreck of the USS Emmons, a World War II destroyer battered by kamikaze planes and scuttled by the U.S. military in 1945.
The divers slipped inside the Emmons, pried loose an engraved metal plate, and disappeared again into the blue.
The looting of the Emmons builder’s plaque – a plate showing construction and commission dates – has drawn the attention of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and riled former crew members.
NCIS was considering a criminal investigation of the alleged vandalism on Wednesday, NCIS spokesman Ed Buice said.
A law passed in 2004 asserts all such wrecks around the world remain sovereign U.S. territory, meaning looting and vandalism is a crime punishable under U.S. law. If NCIS picks up the case, it could be the first investigation launched under the new law, according to Buice.
“I think somebody stole it for a souvenir,” said Chuck DeCesari, an Okinawa dive company owner who discovered the missing plaque. “It is valuable to a collector as a piece of history.”
DeCesari said he made the discovery recently while shooting video of the wreck for the ship’s veterans group, the USS Emmons Association, and estimates the plaque was stolen within the past three months.
By Andrew Dagnell - Daily Mail
The wreck of an historic Royal Navy submarine has been plundered by thieves who dived 90ft to the sea bed to remove part of it.
HMS Holland, which sank in bad weather off the Sussex coast while being towed to a scrapyard in 1912, is protected by law because of its historical importance.
Now police are investigating after divers from the Nautical Archaeology Society discovered during a routine check that its torpedo tube hatch is missing.
Thieves are thought to have floated the 66lb piece of ironwork to the surface in 90ft of water by attaching buoyancy balloons.
Experts say it was an audacious raid which may have been carried out at the request of a collector with an interest in naval history. Both Sussex Police and English Heritage, which is responsible for the wreck's care, have appealed for the return of the artefact and hope that someone in the diving community may provide them with a lead.
Police say that whoever took the hatch, which is about 30in in diameter, is liable for prosecution under the Protection of Wrecks Act.
The Holland 5, as the wreck is known, lay undiscovered until the mid-Nineties. It is the only surviving example of five Holland class vessels commissioned by the Admiralty to test the fighting capability of submarines, which were at the time a relatively new type of technology.
They were top secret and only a few senior officers and crew knew of their existence.
From BBC News
Thieves have targeted a historically important submarine wreck lying in the English Channel, it has emerged.
English Heritage said divers stole the torpedo tube hatch of the Holland 5, which sank six miles off Eastbourne in East Sussex in 1912.
The theft was discovered during a licensed dive by the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) in June and confirmed during a dive last month.
The NAS described the wreck as a "remarkable piece of naval heritage".
Sussex Police and English Heritage have appealed for help to catch the perpetrators, who may have struck up to two years ago. Experts said a group of people would have been behind the theft but that the hatch carried very little monetary value.
Police said removing the hatch and accessing the site without a licence was illegal under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.
The Holland class of submarines were the first submarines to enter service in the British Navy following extensive trials, English Heritage said.
The class of submarine became obsolete in the early 20th Century and in 1912 the Holland 5 was destined for scrap.
From Market Watch
Several additional appellate briefs and amicus briefs have been filed with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Odyssey Marine Exploration's "Black Swan" case.
The filings support Odyssey's argument that the trial court erred in dismissing the case because the recovered coins did not belong to Spain and therefore do not qualify for sovereign immunity, Spain did not have possession of the coins, and sovereign immunity only applies to vessels exclusively on a non-commercial mission.
Among the briefs were two separate filings by groups of descendants whose ancestors owned the cargo shipped aboard the Mercedes. The trial court actually missed the basis of their claims calling them "descendants of those aboard the Mercedes." The trial court, the descendants argue, also missed the fact that no vessel was found at the site and that in any event, property rights to cargo are distinct from the rights to the vessel.
An amicus brief (a filing by a "friend of the court" not a party to the case) was also filed by a congressional delegation led by Congressman Gus Bilirakis. That filing clarifies relevant legislation in the case and asserts that if the Mercedes was on a commercial mission at the time of its demise, as all evidence proves, that vessel should indeed be subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts.
"We are very pleased that Congressman Bilirakis and the other members of Congress who submitted this brief understand the dangerous implications of the district court's decision here," said Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey's Vice President and General Counsel. "If any foreign vessel is allowed to escape the jurisdiction of our courts regardless of its mission or the cargo it carries, there could be grave environmental consequences and national security ramifications.
It is very clear that only warships on strictly non-commercial missions are meant to enjoy sovereign immunity, and we feel confident that the Eleventh Circuit will confirm that."
Additional signatories to the brief include: Congressman Bill Young, ranking Republican Member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Congressman Connie Mack, Congressman Vern Buchannan, Congressman Thomas J. Rooney, and Congressman Thaddeus McCotter.
By Markus Junianto Sihaloho - Jakarta Post
The government said on Wednesday that it had launched an investigation into the activities of alleged treasure hunter Michael Hatcher, who has a lengthy history with Indonesia and is believed to again be operating on a new discovery.
Aji Sularso, an official with the National Committee for Salvage and Utilization of Valuable Objects from Sunken Ships (Pannas BMKT), said it had established a joint investigation team comprising related government institutions.
“We are investigating the case,” Aji said.
Aji was responding to complaints by the Consortium for Rescuing National Assets (KPAB), which alleged the ministry had not responded to its report regarding Hatcher, who may hold both British and Australian passports.
Speaking during a news conference in Jakarta, Endro Soebekti Sadjiman, a member of the consortium of nongovernmental organizations, said they believed Hatcher and his associates had been operating in Indonesia since 1986 and had surfaced in a “secret mission in Blanakan waters” near Pamanukan, Subang, West Java.
“The government must arrest him,” Endro said.
Daniel Nafis from Inside Indonesia, another member of the coalition, said Hatcher began operating in Indonesia salvaging the Vec De Geldermalsen shipwreck in East Bintan waters, Riau Islands province.
Items from the ship reaped $15 million during auction at Christie’s Amsterdam, he said.
It was this incident that led the government to establish Pannas BMKT to supervise any further salvage missions, Daniel said.
In 1999, Hatcher allegedly discovered the Tek Sing shipwreck near South Sumatra waters. According to some Internet accounts, the vessel is described as the “Titanic of the East,” given the loss of life associated with the sinking in 1822.
It has been described as one of the most important antique shipwrecks ever discovered.
By Chris Kamalendran - The Sunday Times
A racket involving the illegal salvaging of ship wrecks in the territorial waters of Sri Lanka and selling them off as scrap iron has surfaced, but officials appear to be lost at sea as loopholes in the law and political patronage have made things smooth sailing for the racketeers.
The Sunday Times learns that since the conclusion of the war, a group based in Colombo together with operatives in the north east and area politicians are behind the vandalising of sunk vessels.
More than 80 vessels, including foreign ones and those that once belonged to the defeated LTTE are known to have sunk off the northern and eastern seas in the past few years. Legally the state owns these wrecks.
However, well-organised racketeers, with powerful backing have begun salvaging these wrecks with the expertise of master divers and high-tech equipment. The iron is later sold off as scrap for millions of rupees in the open market.
The racket surfaced recently following the arrest of a group of people in Ampara along with a large stock of scrap iron. It was later revealed that these had been salvaged from a sunken ship off Ampara coast.
The group had carried out their operations armed with a document purportedly issued from the Coast Conservation Authority, endorsing the salvaging of the ships.
However, the CCA does not have the mandate to issue such a permit, the Sunday Times learns.
C.D.Carrón / G. Pajares - La Razon
La justicia fallará en breve, pero el Gobierno español ya ha presupuestado 1,6 millones de euros desde 2007 para pagar a la asesoría jurídica, encabezada por James Goold, y cuyo coste podría superar los cinco millones
El «Caso Odyssey» parece encaminarse hacia un final, que previsiblemente podrá ser feliz, pero no han faltado los momentos de tensión durante estos años de litigio con la todopoderosa empresa «cazatesoros» que dirige Greg Stemm.
El bufete de James Goold ha sabido, una vez más, diseñar la estrategia adecuada y parece ser cuestión de meses que el suntuoso botín, cuyo valor se elevaría por encima de los cuatrocientos millones de euros, vuelva a casa.
La factura, como era de esperar, también será cuantiosa. El Gobierno tuvo que buscar una fórmula legal para proceder al pago de la operación y lo hizo a través de la partida 448 de los Presupuestos Generales del Estado correspondiente al Ministerio de Cultura: «A Spain-USA Foundation para defensa de intereses españoles en los buques hundidos en aguas norteamericanas».
Se aprovechó este enunciado, que tenía dotaciones económicas muy inferiores, a pesar de que nada tiene que ver con el caso de esta embarcación, ya que naufragó frente a las costas del Algarve portugués y no en Norteamerica, como sugiere el enunciado presupuestario.
En 2006 la dotación era apenas de 60.000 euros, lo mismo que en 2007, año en que Odyssey comunicó el hallazgo de la embarcación hundida (fue en el mes de mayo). En 2008, con el litigio en curso, ya se presupuestaron 300.000 euros (cinco veces más que en el ejercicio anterior), 500.000 al año siguiente y 800.000 para el presente ejercicio de 2010. «Los gastos derivados de los bufetes de abogados han sido muy fuertes y muy elevados.
Sin embargo, las cantidades a pagar no eran las mismas, como es lógico deducir, al comienzo del proceso, en 2007, que a medida que ha ido avanzando, de ahí que la provisión de fondos en cada partida presupuestaria haya ido aumentado», asegura a este diario una persona que ha participado directamente en las negociaciones del «Caso Odyssey». Según esta fuente, la cuantía se ha dividido en «sucesivos anticipos.
De las fases preliminares se ha pasado, a medida que el pleito se ha ido alargando en el tiempo, al pago por los servicios prestados». Como se recordará, el bufete de James Goold está especializado en este tipo de casos.
El letrado ya representó a nuestro país en el litigio que enfrentó a España con una empresa de búsqueda de tesoros por los navíos «Juno» y «La Galga», hundidos frente a las costas de Virginia, cuyo final se resolvió a favor de nuestro país.
La sonada victoria de aquel año fue acompañada, además, por la distinción al abogado de la Orden de Isabel La Católica.
Era el año 2000 y el dinero que podría haber recibido el abogado, según ha podido saber este diario, habría sido de más de 1,5 millones de euros.
From New Tang Dynasty Television
What does a shipwreck and dentistry have in common ?
It's a riddle that's just been unraveled by Tonga police. Suspicions were aroused when people began turning up to this dental practice with lumps of gold to be melted.
[Teisi Taimani, Dental Surgery Assistant]:
"From last year to this year many people were coming in with it. The end of each side, you see it's like it's gold there, because its shiny on the edge where they cut it."
The pieces being brought in were mostly too big to be melted. Police issued search warrants for five suspects.
[Chris Kelley, Tongan Police Commander]:
"The addresses yielded items and objects as well as the quantity of ammunition which we were also very interested in."
The recovered booty led authorities to a previously unknown shipwreck off the Tonga coast. Four people, including the older man seen here, have been charged with taking items from a sunken vessel.
[Chris Kelley, Tongan Police Commander]:
"Shipwrecks within the territorial waters are government property."
But all that glitters is not necessarily gold - tests are yet to determine whether the yellow metal is the real thing.
Police have found a shipwreck in Tonga after large numbers of people started turning up at dentists wanting to melt down gold items.
The ship is a mystery but four men have been charged with removing items from a wreck and not reporting it.
One of those four is navigator Tuakalau Loufau, who along with three others, has been charged with finding a shipwreck and taking items from it.
The police were tipped off about the mystery shipwreck off the main island of Tongatapu, when people started turning up to dental surgeries wanting to melt down what appeared to be gold.
"From last year to this year many people were coming in with it&the end of each side it's like gold there because it's shiny where they cut it," dental surgery assistant Teisi Taimani said.
The gold-like tubes measured up to 12 centimetres.
"When they came in we can't do anything with it. It's too big, we told them we cant do anything," says Taimani.
But when the police heard - they did do something, issuing five search warrants.
"Shipwrecks within the territorial waters are government property and so you're required when you find one to notify authorities and not to remove any items from that wreck," says Tongan Police Commander Chris Kelley.
From Radio New Zealand International
A group of divers in Tonga is facing charges after allegedly removing items from a ship which sank more than a 150 years ago.
Our correspondent reports that police have confiscated what are believed to be gold pieces from the Nuku’alofa homes of the divers.
Mateni Tapueluelu says the divers, all Tongans, had allegedly been removing the materials from the ship, which sank in 1853, for quite some time before police became aware of their activity.
“It is yet to be tested officially but these men have been charged and are due to appear in the Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
They have been charged with illegally removing materials that belong to Government from the oceans [around] Tonga.
By Matt Deans - The Coffs Coast Advocate
Expert divers have plundered the 123-year-old shipwreck of NSW’s worst peacetime maritime disaster.
The SS Keilawarra, off North Solitary Island, collided with another steamer in 1886, killing at least 40 people.
In a modern-day act of piracy on a sophisticated scale, one of the safes aboard the Heritage-listed wreck has been cut open 75 metres down and its contents stolen.
Commercial shipwreck salvagers are believed responsible for the crime given the difficulty of using underwater oxy-cutting tools at such a depth. Experienced local divers who discovered the heist have notified authorities but it’s still unclear exactly how and when the safe was ‘cracked’.
“Usually if treasure or anything of precious value is found on a shipwreck and illegally taken there’s scuttlebutt that passes around diving circles – but up until now we haven’t heard any rumours,” Coffs Harbour diver Mark Spencer said.
Leading maritime archaeologist, NSW Heritage Branch deputy director Tim Smith, said the government was waiting on further evidence from the site.
“This is significant. Of the 1800 shipwrecks in NSW, only 10 per cent have been discovered and this was the only wreck we know of with a safe onboard,” Mr Smith said.
Under Federal and State laws, divers caught tampering with shipwrecks face fines of between $100,000 and $1 million.
Jose Alberto Gonzalez - La Verdad
Cuando, en 1804, frente a la costa de Portugal, un oficial de la marina inglesa exigió al almirante Bustamante que le permitiera inspeccionar la fragata "Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes", el bravo oficial de la Armada Española no dudó en abrir fuego para defender a cañonazo limpio el rico tesoro del Virreinato de Perú que transportaba desde Lima hasta Cádiz.
Estaban en juego no sólo el honor de la patria, que en ese momento paradójicamente estaba en paz con Inglaterra, sino también 500.000 monedas de oro y plata, entre otros bienes.
Doscientos seis años después, ni el Ministerio de Cultura se ha liado a cañonazos con la empresa cazatesoros Odyssey para recuperar la carga del navío expoliada por ésta del fondo marino en mayo del 2007, ni los responsables del Museo Nacional de Arqueología Subacuática (Arqua), ubicado en Cartagena, se liarán a su vez a intercambiar pólvora con los del Ministerio para que el tesoro recale en este centro.
Pero, al igual que los especialistas de Cultura acaban de ganar una importante batalla en la guerra judicial con Odyssey en Estados Unidos (EE. UU.), los del Arqua usan todas sus armas de persuasión para que el Gobierno español exhiba el tesoro en el museo que él mismo construyó como referente nacional del patrimonio estatal sumergido en mares, ríos o lagos.
El juez Mark Pizzo, de Tampa (Florida), sentenció el pasado 23 de diciembre que la compañía norteamericana Odyssey Marine Exploration debía devolver a España en diez días la carga, valorada en 500 millones de dólares. En total son 17 toneladas de reales de plata y escudos de oro acuñados en el Virreinato del Perú.
By Numismatic News
An appeal of a Dec. 22 Florida court ruling that would make treasure salvaged firm Odyssey Marine Explorations, Inc., return 500,000 Spanish Colonial gold and silver coins to Spain is expected.
“We will file our notice of appeal with the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals within the required time and look forward to presenting our case in that forum,” the company said.
The coins were recovered by the firm from what is believed to be the wreck of the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, a Spanish vessel which exploded in 1804. It sank 100 miles west of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Spain claims the treasure on the basis that the ship was a warship of Spain and title to goods on such a ship are held by the state in perpetuity.
Odyssey disagrees and in fact launched the legal process originally to adjudicate the ownership issues once it had successfully retrieved the coins and brought them to the United States.
This past summer a court magistrate filed a report siding with Spain. The latest ruling by the district court judge was accompanied by his orders to allow Odyssey to retain the coins in its possession until the ownership question is decided.
From Tampa Bay Business Journal
A U.S. District Judge has adopted the Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation in the “Black Swan” case in favor of Spain.
The Judge also stayed the order vacating the arrest warrant and the return of the recovered coins to Spain until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rules in the case, which serves to keep the coins in Odyssey’s possession pending the outcome of the case.
In a release, the company said the ruling Dec. 22 does not impact its operations.
“We have not been counting on any revenue from the “Black Swan” in any of our budgets since it was clear that this case would go to appeal no matter which way the judge ruled,” said Greg Stemm, Odyssey chief executive officer, in the prepared statement. “We are moving ahead with our other current projects,” he said, adding in its press release on the ruling allows the company to state that “that the vast majority of our shipwreck projects don’t have the same potential legal issues that have surfaced” in this case.
The company (NasdaqCM: OMEX) is engaged in the exploration of deep-ocean shipwrecks and uses technology to conduct search and archaeological recovery operations worldwide.
“Our focus for 2010 is on projects that are either under specific permits with governments or commercial vessels,” Stemm said in the release.
The company said it believes Merryday’s ruling serves to move the case to the appellate court faster, a venue where it believes the legal issues are in its favor.
By Timothy O'Hara - Keys News
The remains of hundreds of shipwrecks line the Florida Keys reef tract. Their stories are the history of the Keys.
Some wrecks have been identified, but many have not. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and state archaeologist have spent thousands of dollars investigating the wrecks to determine their origin.
The remains have become living museums the sanctuary chooses to leave in the waters so divers can enjoy them in their natural state, as opposed to removing them and putting them in a facility on land.
The sanctuary has established a Shipwreck Trail, running from Key West to Key Largo, to showcase the wrecks and educate people on their history and importance.
Sanctuary officials are reminding divers not to take or move anchors, ballast stones and small trinkets found along the reef, as they could be the clues that lead to a wreck being identified.
The reminder comes after sanctuary divers discovered nine Crown patent fuel blocks, a mixture of coals that have been molded into briquettes, stacked on top of each other on a sand patch on Horseshoe Reef off Key Largo in August.
Two researchers, who routinely work underwater in that area, observed the newly formed piles of blocks, sanctuary spokeswoman Karrie Carnes said.
Sanctuary officials fear someone was trying to take them as souvenirs.
Jesus Garcia Calero - ABC
Han bastado 48 horas. Ya nada impide que el convenio de los Ministerios de Cultura y Defensa se ponga en marcha y se permita a los buques cazaminas de la Armada colaborar con los arqueólogos para que no se vuelva a repetir un expolio como el que Odyssey pudo cometer en aguas del Estrecho de Gibraltar.
Como ya publicó ABC, Defensa y Cultura acordaron en julio realizar intervenciones arqueológicas en colaboración con las Comunidades Autónomas. Su voluntad era comenzar por Andalucía antes de acabar el verano, pero la Junta, tal vez mal asesorada, impugnó el acuerdo y amenazó con un conflicto de competencias, mientras catalogaba pecios que no podría proteger en solitario.
Ayer, en una rápida reacción, la Junta de Andalucía, por decisión de su presidente, José Antonio Griñán, ha enterrado esta beligerancia y ya ha comunicado que se muestra de acuerdo en la colaboración de la Armada en la defensa del patrimonio sumergido, con el simple añadido de una adenda al convenio interministerial que reconozca su papel en el proyecto.
From Trading Markets
A federal judge ruled that the U.S. government may present a new motion favorable to the interests of Spain in the battle over $500 million in gold and silver coins salvaged more than two years ago by a Florida treasure-hunting
Steven D. Merryday, the federal district judge in Tampa, Florida, who is hearing the case pitting the Spanish state against Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., rejected the motion presented by the U.S. government on Aug. 27 in defense of Spain's interests.
But he gave Washington until Oct. 2 to present a new motion and written report of no more than 10 pages, according to what sources with Odyssey told Efe on Tuesday.
The U.S. Justice Department presented itself as a friend of the court in the civil proceedings between Odyssey and Spain to determine who owns the more than 17 tons of treasure that the Tampa-based firm brought up from the bottom of the Atlantic in 2007.
Immediately, Odyssey asked the Florida court to reject the U.S. government report, which cites a 1902 friendship treaty between Washington and Madrid.
The original U.S. motion was presented four days before the Spanish government responded, over Odyssey's objections that it opposed the recommendation of another judge to hand over to Spain the treasure consisting of 594,000 gold and silver coins.
A U.S. federal judge has extended to July 21 the deadline for Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. to file an appeal to a magistrate's recommendation that the $500 million in gold and silver coins the company salvaged from a shipwreck at the bottom of the Atlantic be returned to Spain.
"We'll present our objections to the report and the recommendations of Judge (Mark) Pizzo before or on the 21st," a spokesman for Tampa-based Odyssey told Efe.
The Spanish government will then have until Aug. 31 to "present any response to our objections," Odyssey said in a statement.
Judge Steven Merryday will review Odyssey's allegations and the proposal prepared by Magistrate Pizzo, who recommended that the treasure be turned over to Spain.
Odyssey contends that Madrid cannot prove the treasure netted in the company's 2007 "Black Swan" salvage operation was removed from the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a Spanish navy frigate destroyed in battle in 1804.
But in his June 3 ruling, Pizzo said Spain had demonstrated to his satisfaction that the ship was the Mercedes, making the wreck and its contents subject to the principle of sovereign immunity.
Exteriores aclara a LA GACETA que se esperará al regreso del tesoro de la fragata ‘Mercedes’ para exigir responsabilidades por su exportación ilegal.
Hace dos años, el 2 de julio de 2007, la embajada del Reino Unido en Madrid entregaba al Ministerio de Exteriores las dos licencias de exportación que habían permitido a los cazatesoros norteamericanos de Odyssey Marine Exploration llevar a Tampa (Florida) el tesoro extraído de la fragata española Mercedes, hundida en 1804, y cuya devolución a España recomendó el pasado día 3 el juez de Tampa.
La recomendación es taxativa, ya que el juez establece sin lugar a dudas que el barco expoliado es la Mercedes, y que por tanto se trata de un caso de derecho internacional, por ser un barco de Estado y además tumba de guerra, violado sin permiso: competente será la Corte Suprema de EEUU si Odyssey no devuelve la carga por las buenas, pero el juez Pizzo hizo ver que el veredicto será implacable.
Tratándose, según la sentencia, de un asunto en el que estaban en juego “el interés común y el respeto mutuo entre las naciones”, sorprende a propios y extraños que España sólo haya reclamado la propiedad, sin apreciar delito en la forma como se extrajo el tesoro, a la que hace referencia Pizzo: violando normas internacionales, por no hablar de las de la arqueología (ya que se sacaron 15 toneladas en apenas una semana).
By Cahal Milmo - The Independent
Why are we asking this now ?
Magistrate Mark A Pizzo, sitting in the US Federal Court at Tampa, Florida, might not be a major figure in international law but he has just made a potentially vital decision on the future of 3,000 treasure-laden shipwrecks that lie in the world's oceans.
Mr Pizzo ruled that an American marine archaeology company should return gold and silver coins worth £300m to the Spanish government after the bullion was removed from a sunken vessel in the Atlantic.
Odyssey Marine Exploration removed the 500,000 coins, weighing 17 tonnes, in 2007 and flew them back to its Florida base from Gibraltar.
The move was greeted with fury by the Spanish government, which insisted the wreck was the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, a frigate which was sunk by the Royal Navy in 1804.
Odyssey insisted there was not enough evidence to prove the site, which it called Black Swan, was the Nuestra Senora and, even if that were the case, the ship was on a commercial mission and its cargo could be legitimately recovered under salvage law and shared among salvors and claimants.
Mr Pizzo dealt a serious blow to these plans when he issued a ruling that the sunken vessel was probably the Nuestra Senora and its glittering bullion should be returned in its entirety to Madrid. Odyssey has said it will appeal.
Why is a 205-year-old Spanish wreck so important ?
The Nuestra Senora, whose sinking provoked war between Britain and Spain, goes to the heart of a debate about which shipwrecks can be explored and their cargoes retrieved.
The 1989 International Convention on Salvage ruled that wrecks found in international waters were effectively there for the taking, requiring salvors to obtain "title" to the site which in most cases gives them ownership of whatever they can recover. But a key exception are the estimated 3,000 sovereign immune vessels which litter the world's seabeds.
These state-owned ships, including all naval vessels, remain the inalienable property of their originating nation. The US judge decided that the Nuestra Senora was a sovereign vessel despite evidence that it was on a commercial voyage taking privately owned gold from Peru.
Odyssey's share value plunged on news of the ruling. If the recommendation is upheld on appeal, it could have major implications for the dozen or so underwater treasure hunting companies that have sprung up by obliging them to return their finds to government coffers.
Where have all these treasure hunters come from ?
The marine archaeology business has been transformed in the past decade by the arrival of remote-controlled submersible robots which have allowed explorers to reach deep-water wrecks for the first time. Such exploration does not come cheap.
The smallest remote operating vehicle (ROV), necessary for probing, photographing and retrieving artefacts from the sea bed, costs about £35,000. Odyssey operates a Land Rover-sized ROV called Zeus which cost up to £2.5m and is capable of picking up anything from a two-tonne cannon to a single coin as well as taking high-resolution photographs of a wreck site. Operating costs are vast – about £600,000 a month to run a fully-equipped survey ship.
More to read...
From BBC News
A deep sea treasure-hunting company has been ordered by a US judge to hand over half a million gold and silver coins to the government of Spain.
The company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, raised the haul from a shipwreck in the Atlantic, suspected to be that of a Spanish naval vessel.
The Spanish government argued that the treasure formed part of the country's national heritage.
But Odyssey intends to appeal, saying it has a claim to the treasure.
This is just the latest round of a long-running and sometimes murky dispute, says the BBC's Steve Kingstone in Madrid.
The haul of coins - thought to be worth some $500m (£308m) - came to light in 2007, when Odyssey announced the recovery of artefacts from a wreck in the Atlantic.
It kept the location of the wreck secret, in what it said was an attempt to deter looters.
Since the announcement of the Magistrate’s recommendation in the “Black Swan” case, intense international media coverage has led to many questions that Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. would like to address.
What was this recent court filing by the Magistrate ?
This was not a ruling in the case. The recent filing was a recommendation by U.S. Federal Court Magistrate Mark A. Pizzo that Spain’s Motion to Dismiss the “Black Swan” case be granted. The recommendation which was filed June 3, 2009, opines that the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case. Odyssey and any other interested parties may file written objections to the recommendation before any ruling is issued, and Odyssey intends to file an objection.
How do you feel about the recommendation ?
While we respect the Magistrate’s experience, judges are not infallible, as evidenced by the multitude of verdicts that are overturned each year in appellate court.
We believe key pieces of evidence were ignored or discounted that show the Mercedes WAS clearly on a commercial mission when she sank and that the majority of cargo (coins) aboard the ship was owned by PRIVATE individuals, not the government.
“Returning” the coins to the Spanish Government when they never owned them defies logic and reason. We also disagree with the Magistrate’s apparent assumption that a vessel was found at the site. Furthermore, the Magistrate accepted facts as presented by Spain without giving Odyssey an opportunity to cross examine witnesses at a trial.
From Die Welt
Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (Nasdaq:OMEX), pioneers in the field of deep-ocean shipwreck exploration has announced plans to file a written objection to the U.S. Federal Court Magistrate’s recommendation that Spain’s Motion to Dismiss the "Black Swan” case be granted and that the property recovered be returned to Spain.
The recommendation which was filed June 3, 2009 concludes that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.
Odyssey brought the "Black Swan” case to federal court in the spring of 2007 after discovering a site in the Atlantic Ocean with over 500,000 gold and silver coins. Spain filed a claim in the case asserting that the cargo came from the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, a Spanish vessel which exploded in 1804.
Despite the absence of a vessel at the site, the District Court Magistrate has indicated that he believes that there is sufficient evidence to confirm that the site is that of the Mercedes and that the vessel and its cargo are subject to sovereign immunity.
"We will object to the Magistrate’s recommendation,” said Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey’s Vice President and General Counsel. "This is clearly a case where there are many relevant issues of fact that have been disputed, including the issue of whether the Mercedes was on a commercial mission and whether the property recovered belonged to Spain.
I presume that the claimants in the case who assert ownership rights by virtue of the fact that their ancestors owned a portion of the cargo will join us in objecting.
From VietNam Net Bridge
Everyday for 20 years Ha Cong Ao and Hoang Dinh Dang have risked their lives diving to the bottom of the Red River in search of discarded valuable materials.
When they discovered a sunken 19th century ship they thought they’d come up trumps but now they’re not so sure.
On the banks of the Red River in Khoai Chau district, Hung Yen province sits a recently salvaged boat that was built sometime in the 19th century. Now broken in two the boat was once 30m long and 5m wide.
The bronze steam-engine and screw-propeller are intact, however, so there is enough evidence to suggest that this ship was a real beauty in its day.
But the divers, who discovered the boat, are now staring at the shipwreck and wondering if dredging up the past was such a good idea. At first, of course, they thought they’d struck gold.
“People say we hit the jackpot but in fact we are sitting on a land-mine,” says 53-year old Ha Cong Ao. “We emptied our own pockets and borrowed a lot of money to fish out the wreck. Now we don’t know when we will be able to pay off our debts.”
Initially, Ao along with his son Ha Cong Chuom and his friend Hoang Dinh Dang estimated it would take a week and cost VND10m to pull the wreck out and that they could sell wood and iron for VND70m.
In the end it took a whole month. They hired nine divers and two crane boats at a cost of VND124 million. There was an additional VND100m spent on oil.
By Mike Celizic
Courts will decide who owns $500 million haul found off coast of Portugal.
If he’s a pirate who’s made off with a half-billion-dollar booty haul, as Spain says he is, Greg Stemm didn’t look the part. Sporting a closely trimmed gray beard and wearing a sport coat with a black shirt and matching slacks, he never once said “Arrrr” or “matey.” He didn’t even have an eye patch or a parrot perched on his tweed-upholstered shoulder.
But what Stemm, the CEO of Odyssey Marine Exploration, does have in a warehouse somewhere in Florida is a haul of hundreds of thousands of coins — gold pieces of eight and silver coins — that the Spanish government says belongs to the people of Spain.
A U.S. District Court judge who has been hearing arguments in the case since last year is expected to rule soon on who is the rightful owner of what is reported to be the largest treasure ever recovered from the deep.
From This Is Cornwal
Three deep-sea divers from Cornwall were today forced to plead guilty in Spain to crimes they did not commit to avoid potentially being jailed for six years, writes Jeff Reines.
Self-employed commercial divers Malcolm Cubin, from Truro, Peter Devlin, of Falmouth, and Steve Russ, of Helston, appeared at court in Santiago, Galicia, for about 20 minutes this morning, following last-minute negotiations with prosecutors.
They admitted damaging and stealing from a wreck and each received two six-month prison sentences, suspended for two years, and a £4,700 fine.
But they have always insisted they never touched the wreck of the Don Pedro, having been licensed by the Spanish government to recover tin from a sunken Dutch ship nearby, the Friesland.
During the salvage operation seven years ago, they were arrested and accused of plundering treasure from the Don Pedro.
The charges have hung over their heads ever since and they were due to face a full trial starting today, which could have resulted in prison sentences of up to six years and fines of £40,000.
From The Packet
Deep sea divers from Truro, Falmouth and Helston, who face charges of plundering treasure from a Spanish shipwreck, are considering accepting a plea deal offered by the country’s authorities.
The deal would see the three men receive a 12 month suspended sentence, fined in excess of £5,000 and left with a criminal record for a crime they insist they did not commit.
Professional diver and owner of Force 9 Salvage, Pete Devlin from Falmouth, electronics expert Steve Russ from Helston, and professional diver Malcolm Cubin from Truro are due to face trial in Spain on March 24.
The team has had the threat of six years in jail and huge fines hanging over their heads since 2002.
The Spanish government has now threatened to issue an international arrest warrant if they do not come to Spain to face charges, or plead guilty.
The team has been warned they would not receive a fair trail because of slanted local press coverage.
Father of four, Malcolm Cubin aged 38 from Truro, who is considering fighting the extradition request said that having the threat of jail hanging over his head has been “mental torture” for him and his family.
From Taiwan News
Peru says it is pushing forward with a legal claim in the U.S. seeking $500 million in silver coins plucked from the wreck of a Spanish galleon that sank in 1804.
A public decree issued by the Foreign Ministry orders Lima's ambassador in Washington to hire attorneys to try to recover 17 tons of coins.
Peru claimed the treasure in U.S. District Court in Florida last year, arguing that the coins were made from Peruvian silver and minted in Lima.
Spain's government is also suing Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration for the loot, which was found off Portugal in 2007. Peru was a Spanish colony at the time the ship sank.
By Helena Smith
For centuries they have lain forgotten and untouched in the murky depths of the Mediterranean. But the sunken glories of Greece are now threatened by modern treasure hunters, who are targeting their riches since the lifting of a ban on coastal scuba-diving.
At risk, say archaeologists, is an unseen part of the country's cultural patrimony, comprising thousands of shipwrecks dating from Classical, Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine and early modern times and their priceless cargoes of coins, ingots, weapons and gold.
"Greek waters are some of the richest in antiquities in the world," said the marine archaeologist Katerina Dellaporta.
"Thanks to very stringent controls over underwater exploration shipwrecks have been extremely well preserved."
Until recently divers were allowed access to just 620 miles of the country's 12,000 mile coastline, but in an attempt to boost tourism, the conservative government opened the country's entire coastal waters to underwater exploration in 2003.
Since then, looting has proliferated, say archaeologists.
Treasure hunters, encouraged by scuba-diving websites from America to Australia, are homing in on the "archaeological sea parks" armed with hi-tech scanners, cameras and nets.
By Sarah Finger - Libération
«Trouver un trésor, c’est le rêve de beaucoup de gens. Moi, j’en ai trouvé un. Ce fut une aventure extraordinaire, mais aussi le début d’un cauchemar.
Quand j’ai été arrêté, on a dit que j’avais déjà eu des démêlés avec les douanes, que j’étais un pilleur bien connu.
Depuis cette affaire, j’ai eu un contrôle fiscal. Je suis mis en examen pour destructions et dégradations de biens découverts à l’occasion d’une fouille archéologique.
Je vais sans doute être condamné trois fois : par les douanes, le tribunal et le fisc. Tout ça m’a dégoûté de plonger. Pourtant, c’était l’histoire de toute ma vie.
J’ai 55 ans, j’habite Palavas-les-Flots, dans l’Hérault et je plonge presque chaque jour depuis trente-cinq ans. Avec un collègue, au début des années 80, on avait monté un club de plongée qui marchait bien.
L’été, on emmenait les gens en mer et l’hiver, je partais ramasser des coquillages sauvages. Et en cherchant des coquillages, forcément, je tombais sur des trucs : des épaves, des objets antiques…
Plus tard, j’ai été matelot, puis je me suis mis à mon compte, j’ai fait pas mal de choses, toujours en mer. J’ai passé des milliers d’heures dans l’eau, je connaissais par cœur tous les coins et plus ça allait, plus la recherche d’épaves m’intéressait.
Avec quelques passionnés, on plongeait un peu au hasard. On remontait des cols d’amphores ou des amphores entières, des meules romaines, des ancres…
C’était à chaque fois comme découvrir un trésor. Tu te dis : "Ça fait deux mille ans que c’est au fond de la mer ; et c’est toi qui le sors de l’oubli !"
Du bonheur, quoi.
From BBC News
A team of Cornish divers accused of plundering a shipwreck off the Spanish coast are to face trial in Spain.
Peter Devlin, from Falmouth, Malcolm Cubin, from Truro, and Steve Russ, from Helston, are accused of taking gold and diamonds from the wreck in June 2002. They say they were diving for tin ingots from a nearby wreck, for which they had a contract.
The men, who all deny a charge of theft, are due to appear for trial at the Court of Santiago on 24 March.
The men are each charged with one count of theft. They also each face a further charge of destruction of the patrimonial heritage of Spain, which they also deny.
The trio said they were working as divers on a salvage contract awarded by the Spanish government when they were arrested.
If they are found guilty, the men each face up to six years in jail.
From the Euro Weekly Group
Guardia civil officers from the Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA) have discovered and seized 19 amphorae dating from the first and second centuries AD. Two Spanish men, aged 60 and 55, were arrested and accused of being in possession of archaeological remains.
In late October, the Guardia Civil began to suspect a local diver may be in possession of a collection of amphorae which they believed could have been taken from the Bou Ferrer, a Roman shipwreck found in the neighboring waters of Villajoyosa in March 2001.
Further investigation lead to local antiques dealers, and it was discovered that a single man had an important collection of amphorae, many of which had indeed come from the shipwreck.
The officers searched several properties and finally found the 19 amphorae just before the defendants tried to move them to a safer place to hide them, or possibly even destroy them so no trace of them could be found.
The 19 amphorae have now been taken to the Museo Arqueologico Provincial de Alicante.
Two men have been arrested and the amphoras are thought to have come from a shipwreck off Villajoyosa.
Agents from the environment protection section of the Guardia Civil, Seprona, in Santa Pola, have arrested two people and recovered 19 amphoras dating from the first and second centuries, thought to have been plundered from a shipwreck.
The two men face charges of committing a crime against the historical heritage and one has been identified as 60 year old R.B.M.
The earthenware jars are thought to have been taken from the wreck of the ‘Bou Ferrer’ which was located off the coast of Villajoyosa in March 2001.
The arrests came as the men were transferring some the material which has now been taken to the Alicante provincial archaeology museum for study and cataloguing.
Other jars were found in searches of both men’s homes.
From Perth Now
Scavengers have been accused of stealing WA's maritime history by taking artefacts and bottles from the seabed at an historical Fremantle site.
The WA Museum said divers had been disturbing the seabed to remove material from the historical Long Jetty site and Bathers Bay.
Museum acting chief executive Diana Jones said Long Jetty was declared an historic site in 1988 and was protected under the WA Maritime Archaeology Act 1973.
“Long Jetty was recognised as a site of historical significance after the museum’s maritime archaeologists surveyed the area and found a wealth of objects dating as far back as the 1840s,” Ms Jones said.
Thousands of bottles and jars, cutlery, lumps of coal, sheep bones and other items were surveyed and documented. Among the personal belongings recovered were watches, toys, shoes, costume jewellery and coins.
The jetty was at its busiest during the gold rush days of the early 1890s.
It became known as the Long Jetty when the original Ocean Jetty was extended in 1887.
La Policía Nacional ha recuperado cientos de piezas de incalculable valor histórico y arqueológico en diferentes operaciones en Almería, Jaén y Palma de Mallorca.
Agentes del Grupo Especial de Respuesta al Crimen Organizado (GRECO) de Palma de Mallorca y de la Brigada Provincial de la Polícia Judicial han sido los encargados de llevar a cabo una de estas operaciones en la que se han recuperado cerca de un centenar de piezas de importante valor arqueológico procedentes del expolio en yacimientos submarinos.
Esta actuación ha tenido lugar en el marco de una operación contra el tráfico de estupefacientes en la que han sido detenidas seis personas y se han intervenido 500 plantas de marihuana.
Por su parte, los agentes de la Brigada Provincial de la Policía Judicial de Almería, en colaboración con la UDEV de la Comisaría de Jaén, iniciaron una investigación conjunta tras el robo ocurrido en la Catedral de Jaén el pasado 18 de septiembre, en el que fueron sustraídas de una vitrina del museo varias joyas episcopales de alto valor histórico.
By Mike Vogel
The country's largest publicly traded shipwreck exploration company has three promising finds but faces hurdles in opening the treasure chests.
In October 1804, four Spanish frigates approached the port of Cadiz in southwestern Spain, laden with South American treasure.
The loot was meant to bankroll Spain, nominally neutral but tacitly allied with Napoleon against Britain. Four British frigates met the treasure fleet.
In the ensuing Battle of Cape St. Mary, the British captured three of the Spanish ships. The fourth, the Mercedes, exploded.
Historical novelist Patrick O’Brian integrated the conflict into one of his novels, with fictional hero Capt. John “Lucky Jack” Aubrey awed as the Mercedes’ powder magazine destroyed the ship in “a blast so huge it wiped out thought and almost consciousness: the Mercedes blew up in a fountain of brilliant orange light that pierced the sky.”
By Emilio J. Lopez
U.S. treasure-hunting firm Odyssey Marine Exploration denied Spanish government claims that it "secretly" scoured the ocean floor to find a wreck containing a $500 million haul of colonial-era coins.
"Odyssey in this case followed all the appropriate archaeological and legal protocols," Odyssey CEO Greg Stemm told Efe, calling allegations to the contrary false and "inflammatory."
Spain's Culture Ministry on Tuesday accused Odyssey of carrying out "this underwater excavation in secret after having received specific instructions that it was prohibited.
Madrid on Monday provided evidence to a U.S. federal court in Tampa, Florida, that the wreck in which Odyssey found hundreds of thousands of gold and silver coins is the Spanish frigate Nuestra Señora de Las Mercedes, sunk in October 1804 after a battle with British warships off the coast of Portugal in which more than 250 Spaniards died.
Spain's government said Tuesday it has proof of the Spanish origin of treasure recovered from a wreck in the Atlantic by deep-sea explorer firm Odyssey, and demanded the U.S. company hand it back.
"Spain yesterday (Monday) presented to the court in Tampa (Florida) the proof" that the treasure came from the wreck of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, the culture ministry said in a statement.
The ship, which sank off southern Portugal with a massive cargo of gold and silver, is our "historical patrimony and also constitutes the tomb of 250 seamen and Spanish citizens," it said.
By Christine Armario
Peru's government wants to know if 17 tons of silver coins recovered from a shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean last year were made there, complicating the legal quest to determine who rightfully owns the multimillion-dollar treasure.
Peru filed a claim Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tampa to determine where the coins originated, entering the fray over the $500 million loot found on a sunken ship by Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration. Odyssey has been fighting the Spanish government for ownership of the ship and its contents.
Peruvian consumer rights advocates contend the coins were made with Peruvian metals and minted in Lima. When Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes y las Animas sank west of Portugal with more than 200 people on board in 1804, Peru was still a Spanish colony.
"Probably every colonial Spanish shipwreck that has ever been discovered has had coins that originated in Peru," Greg Stemm, Odyssey Marine Exploration's chief executive officer, wrote in an e-mail. "So it will be interesting to see how successful they are in getting other governments and shipwreck explorers to recognize their interest."
Peru's claim states that it is entitled to any property that originated there and was produced by its people. An official at the Peruvian embassy in Washington, D.C., declined to comment.>
By Jasper Copping
Divers are plundering the wrecks of British vessels sunk during the Second World War in an area known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic".
Merchant ships and Royal Navy vessels are among the wrecks lying off the coast of America which were sunk by German U-boats during the Battle of the Atlantic.
The stretch of seabed off North Carolina and Virginia contains up to 90 wrecks, most lying at relatively shallow depths, offering divers and maritime historians unique opportunities for exploration.
However, experts have warned that the wrecks are increasingly being disturbed by divers, some of whom are removing items to keep as souvenirs.
Weapons and other artefacts have been looted and divers are even said to have removed the skeleton of a German sailor from a sunken U-boat in the area.
On one British wreck, the remains of a sailor who went down with his ship have recently been exposed by the seabed's shifting sands and historians are concerned they could be targeted by souvenir hunters.
From The Jakarta Post
Forestry police at the Karimunjawa National Park captured a ship and its crew attempting to salvage material from sunken wreckage off the park's coast Friday.
Chief investigator of the East Java national park Agus Prabowo said beside capturing the vessel -- the KM Puji Jaya -- the forestry police detained six crew members and the ship's captain, all of whom were undergoing interrogation.
According to a preliminary inquiry, the attempted salvage, from which the suspects retrieved 1.3 tons of scrapped iron, was prevented with assistance from regency police.
The wreckage belongs to the national park, as it lies in waters within park territory, Agus added. The incident took place near the southern tip of Sintok Island, on the Menjangan Besar waters, part of the national park.
Another park investigator, Eko Novi, said salvaging of parts had long since been prohibited because of potential damage to coral reefs and because surrounding waters belong to the park.
"Vessels involved in salvaging attempts have damaged numerous aquatic species, such as anthipates, as well as coral reefs, in addition to threatening the underwater ecosystem, which is protected by the 1990 Natural Resources Conservation Law," he said.
Agus said the suspects would face natural resource conservation disturbance charges, which carry a maximum five-year jail sentence and a Rp 100 million (US$10,900) fine for convictions.
Asked about the sunken ship's owner, Agus repeated the national park had authority to preserve the vessel wreckage because it lay within park territory.
"They would not have been prohibited, had they tried to salvage parts outside the park's territory," he added.
The suspects, residents of Jepara, said they planned to sell the scrapped iron in local markets and did not know salvaging from wrecks in the waters off the park was illegal.
"We look for iron from shipwrecks, which we can sell for Rp 2,500 per kilogram. This is how we earn our living. We won't be able to pay the Rp 100 million fine," said the vessel's captain, identified as SU.
With the opening of dive sites of once forbidden areas to divers, Greece is becoming a haven for looters.
When it was first proposed, it seemed like a good idea: open up the Greek seas to divers and create a paradise for tourists underwater.
Those who backed the law never thought of it as a windfall for looters, nor did it occur to them that it might put the acquisition policies of museums under further scrutiny.
But the Greek parliament's unprecedented step last month to allow divers access to the once forbidden coastline has raised fears that archaeological riches preserved in an untouched world will be taken by ruthless thieves.
"There are treasures in our seas," says Dimitris Athanasoulis, president of the Archaeologists' Association. "This will open the floodgates to smugglers.
It'll serve to encourage them at a time when evidence shows the trafficking of antiquities is on the rise."
From the Associated Press
Peruvian consumer rights advocates urged Peru's government Monday to claim some US$500 million in gold and silver coins found in a sunken galleon off the coast of Spain last year.
Some 17 tons (15.4 metric tons) of coins were discovered by a Tampa, Fla.-based treasure-hunting company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, when it raised a shipwreck west of the Straits of Gibraltar in May 2007.
Spain's government also claims ownership of the wreck and its contents — and has sued Odyssey, which hauled away the treasure.
But the Association of Peruvian Consumers and Users said the South American nation also has a right to the booty, since it believes the coins were made with Peruvian metals and minted in Lima.
From This Is Cornwall
Falmouth diver Peter Devlin and a friend from Truro have been given less than a fortnight to face trial in Spain, accused of plundering treasure from a sunken wreck.
The friend, father-of-four Malcolm Cubin, was suddenly told to prepare a defense to face trial in 10 days after the matter had hung over himself and Mr Devlin for more than six years.
The case was delayed, but the two men now face a nervous wait to find out if they will spend up to six years in a Spanish prison.
Self-employed commercial diver Mr Cubin, 37, of Truro, said: "The first I heard about it was from the TV news so I was stunned and shocked.
"Then the panic set in and I called our investors who confirmed it. I contacted our lawyers in Spain who got a stay of execution.
It's hard to know what to do with it always in the back of your mind. You wonder what's going to happen to your family if you get carted off to jail. We did nothing wrong and no-one has convinced us otherwise."
A team including Mr Cubin was licensed by the Spanish government to recover 220 tonnes of tin from Dutch cargo vessel the Friesland, which sank off the port of Corrubedo, Galicia, in 1877, and hand over 23% of the expected £650,000 value.
By Ben Sills
Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc.'s 17 ton-haul (15,400 kilograms) of sunken treasure from the Atlantic Ocean came from a Spanish warship and must be returned to the country, a lawyer said after an inspection of the artifacts.
Spain expects the new evidence from the inspection will persuade a U.S. court in Tampa, Florida, to order Odyssey to return the treasure without compensation, James Goold, a lawyer for the government, said at a press conference in Madrid today.
"What Odyssey has done is morally and legally unacceptable," Goold said. The company secretly stripped a Spanish ship of coins and other artifacts then tried to hide them by claiming that it did not know the identity of the ship.''
Representatives of the Spanish government visited Tampa last month to inspect the artifacts recovered from a wreck that Odyssey codenamed "Black Swan." Spain contested the company's claim to the wreck in a U.S. court case in Florida.
From the International Herald Tribune
A court in this southern French city on Wednesday fined four divers for pillaging artifacts from a Roman ship dating back to the second century B.C.
The divers were each fined €1,500 (US$1,980) for removing 30 objects, including about a dozen Roman vases, from the ship, lying in 57 meters (187 feet) of water off the coast of this Mediterranean port city. Two other divers were acquitted.
The Roman vessel was transporting about 1,000 vases of wine from the western coast of Italy when it sunk off the town of Ciotat, some 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Marseilles.
The convicted divers removed the booty between 2001 and 2005, years after the sunken vessel was discovered in 1984. They were not the only ones interested in the antique treasures.
A 2005 inventory by authorities showed there were only 278 vases and other objects remaining on the boat out of an initial 1,000. Under French law, anyone who discovers a sunken ship must report it to authorities and it becomes part of France's state property.