March 3, 2011 – In 1804 British canons sank the Spanish frigate Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes. She transported about 600.000 coins weighing 17 tons valued at about 500 million dollar. This description could be applicable to a ship, which was recovered by a private company named Odyssey Marine Exploration. This company, whose stocks are quoted at the stock exchange, made the tracing and exploitation of sunken treasures a business. Now Odyssey Marine Exploration has to stand trial against the Spanish Government in the United States.
This lawsuit raises the following legal question: Whom do shipwrecks belong to? According to UNESCO there are still about 3 million wrecks under the ocean. And this lawsuit also features moral implications, at least when we believe in WikiLeaks: The Spanish government stands trial for a painting, which was bought from Nazi Germany. This painting belonged to a US citizen’s ancestor, who had to sell it to the Nazis at a ridiculous low price in order to receive an exit certificate. The WikiLeak document is said to state that the US Government has offered help to Spain concerning the sunken treasures, when Spain would be conciliatory concerning the painting.
If you want to read the complete article and follow the argumentation of both sides, click here.
If you want to see the in-house promotional film of Odyssey Marine Exploration, click here.