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Business Observer Monday, Feb. 20, 2012 9 years ago

Treasure to return to Spain

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Odyssey will return $500 million worth of coins from a Spanish shipwreck.

TAMPA — On Friday, U.S. Middle District Magistrate Mark A. Pizzo ordered Odyssey Marine Exploration to return 594,000 gold and silver coins it recovered from a Spanish shipwreck in 2007 to the European country, Reuters reports. The coins are worth more than $500 million.

Odyssey, a Tampa-based firm specializing in the exploration of sunken watercraft, has been in a legal battle with Spain since it recovered the treasure from the wreck of the Spanish ship Nuestra Senora off the coast of Portugal. The British sunk the Spanish ship in a 1804 battle, and Spain claimed it was the rightful owner of the ship and its cargo.

According to Reuters, Melinda MacConnel, vice president and general counsel of Odyssey Marine, told reporters after the Friday hearing that the ruling "lies in the face of all legal precendent." MacConnel said the company will abide by the ruling, but it may discourage other treasure hunters from reporting their finds in the future. "The items will be hidden, or even worse, melted own or sold on eBay," she said.

Odyssey reported earnings of $5.9 million for its third quarter, which included $226,216 of artifact sales.

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