Photo: Hundreds of Coins Due to Spain
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued on Friday a mandate obliging a Florida company to hand over to Spain $500 million in gold and silver coins salvaged from the bottom of the Atlantic in May 2007.
The Atlanta-based appellate panel sent a notification of the mandate to the district court in Tampa that originally heard the case pitting the Spanish government against Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc.
“The formal notice has been issued this morning, so I assume it was sent today (Friday),” the lawyer representing Spain in the case, James Goold, told Efe.
Once U.S. Magistrate Mark Pizzo receives the mandate, he will likely convene a meeting with both parties to establish a procedure and timetable for the handover of the coins.
“There is no mandate from the Atlanta court of appeals,” an official at the Tampa district court told Efe. The 11th Circuit, he said, “doesn’t send anything electronically, it only sends paper,” meaning that it will take at least a day for the notice to reach the Florida court.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Thursday a motion from Odyssey seeking an injunction against the 11th Circuit’s order to turn over the treasure.
Odyssey filed the brief with the Supreme Court days after the 11th Circuit rejected the Tampa-based company’s motion to stay the same court’s November decision ordering the firm to turn over the coins.
The treasure-hunting firm sought an emergency injunction that would give it time to submit a more detailed brief asking the Supreme Court to requisition the case file from the Tampa trial court for review.
U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday ruled in December 2009 that Spain was the rightful owner of the treasure Odyssey salvaged from waters off Portugal 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 the United States.
The treasure remains at a secret location in Florida, but Spanish officials have been allowed to conduct periodic inspections to verify that the cargo is intact.
Madrid says the treasure came from the Mercedes and that the vessel and its contents rightfully belong to Spain under the principle of sovereign immunity.
Odyssey, however, contends that contemporaneous Spanish diplomatic communications show the Mercedes was on a commercial mission at the time of her sinking, invalidating Madrid’s sovereign immunity claim.