25 feb 2012
US returns 200 years old treasure worth $470 mn to Spain
The arrival of the cargo from the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes sealed the end of a five-year legal battle between Spain and the US treasure hunters who hauled up the trove- worth at least 350 million euros ($470 million).
Two hulking military transport planes touched down at an airbase at Torrejon, north of Madrid, with the 23 tonnes of cargo including coins and artefacts packed in crates in their holds.
British warships sunk the Spanish frigate off the coast of Portugal near the Straits of Gibraltar during the Battle of Cape Santa Maria in October 1804.
Florida-based company Odyssey Marine Exploration discovered the wreck in May 2007 and fought in the US courts for the rights to the find, considered the most valuable sunken treasure discovery in history.
Spain was allowed to take the treasure when a judge in Florida this month denied Odyssey’s claim for the Spanish government to pay the costs of storing and preserving it, in the last court case in the saga.
Earlier judgements ruled that the treasure, including the coins minted in Peru, a Spanish colony at the time, counted as the property of Spain according to US treaties.
Miguel Morer, a spokesman for the Spanish defence ministry who travelled to oversee the collection, told AFP in Florida that the size of the total haul was estimated at around 23 tonnes, more than previously thought.
As well as 595,000 silver and gold coins, the trove includes religious images and chests.