Photo: Spanish Gold Treasure, Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court’s agreement to consider a motion seeking an injunction against a judicial order compelling 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 will not “paralyze” the handover process, Madrid’s attorney said Wednesday.
He commented a few hours after high court sources said the brief submitted by Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. will be reviewed “in the coming days” by Justice Clarence Thomas.
“Normally, these petitions are considered very quickly by the Supreme Court,” the lawyer representing Spain in the case, James Goold, told Efe.
Odyssey’s motion “does not paralyze the process” for the delivery of the coins to Spain, “unless the Supreme (Court) decides to grant an injunction,” Goold said.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has not accepted Odyssey’s motion,” the lawyer said, insisting that Wednesday’s announcement “means only that the papers have been received.”
Odyssey filed the brief with the Supreme Court days after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta rejected the Tampa-based company’s motion to stay the same court’s November decision ordering the firm to turn over the coins.
The 11th Circuit is expected this week to 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.
U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday ruled in December 2009 that Spain was the rightful owner of the treasure Odyssey salvaged in the same area 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 Florida.
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.
Goold told Efe earlier that Odyssey’s Supreme Court brief relies on arguments “that have been rejected at every stage of the case.”