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All Posts Tagged With: "shipwreck"

Odyssey Marine Exploration Comments on WikiLeaks Information

“Black Swan” and HMS Sussex projects named in Government Communications

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (NasdaqCM: OMEX) a pioneer in the field of deep ocean exploration, was named in several U.S. State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks and furnished to the media worldwide. Some of the released cables suggest that the State Department offered special assistance in the “Black Swan” case to Spanish officials in exchange for assistance in acquiring a French painting confiscated by the Nazis during World War II and now controlled by Spain.

The cables indicate that the U.S. Government also provided confidential documentation on Odyssey to Spain.

Other State Department cables contradict Spain’s claims and support Odyssey’s previously stated version of events relating to the company’s activities in Spain, including the HMS Sussex project and the boarding of Odyssey’s vessels.

“While we are obviously concerned about these implications regarding the ‘Black Swan’ case, we are attempting to obtain additional information before taking any specific actions. I have personally sent a letter to the Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, requesting additional information and a review of the position taken by the U.S. in the ‘Black Swan’ legal case,” stated Greg Stemm, Odyssey CEO. “The possibility that someone in the U.S. Government came up with this perfidious offer to sacrifice Odyssey, its thousands of shareholders, and the many jobs created by the company in exchange for the return of one painting to one individual is hard to believe. The WikiLeaks cables clearly show that we have worked cooperatively and transparently with both Spain and the State Department for many years, in spite of claims to the contrary. That fact makes the revelations all the more disappointing. The cables also make us wonder what other agreements may have taken place between U.S. Government officials and Spain regarding the amicus brief filed in support of Spain’s position in the ‘Black Swan’ case.”

“We’ve wondered why the United States changed its long standing position on sovereign immunity, which prior to this case was consistent with U.S. law, international law and U.S. naval regulations that in order for a foreign country’s ships and cargo to be immune from the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts they must be engaged in military, non-commercial activities,” stated Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey Vice President and General Counsel. “These released cables do call into question the motivation behind the amicus brief filed by the Executive Branch supporting Spain in the ‘Black Swan’ case.”

Additional cables released support Odyssey’s statements that, contrary to allegations of certain Spanish officials, the company always cooperated with the Spanish Government and that permits from the Spanish government were granted for work on the HMS Sussex project. The cables also demonstrate the obstructionist activities carried out by certain Spanish officials who had personal reasons for trying to prevent Odyssey from working on the Sussex. These obstructions took place even though Odyssey has an exclusive contract for the archaeological excavation of this UK sovereign immune warship (which was on a strictly military mission when it sank in 1694 off the coast of Gibraltar). Odyssey filed an affidavit in 2007 with a chronology of Odyssey’s interactions with the Spanish Government since 1998. It can be accessed at http://shipwreck.net/pdf/ExhibitE.pdf. The document contains entries that are corroborated by information in the State Department cables, which directly contradict claims by some Spanish officials and the Spanish media. (more…)

Wikileaks Reveals State Dept Deal with Spain In Black Swan Treasure Lawsuit

For years, Odyssey Marine has been in litigation with the Spanish government over a 17 tons of gold and silver coins that Odyssey discovered from “The Black Swan”.

The 19th-century shipwreck at the heart of the dispute with Odyssey Marine Exploration is the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes — a Spanish warship sunk by the British navy southwest of Portugal in 1804 with more than 200 people on board.

The Legal Proceedings:

Odyssey announced in May 2007 it had discovered the wreck in the Atlantic and raised 500,000 silver coins and other artifacts worth an estimated US$500 million (€324 million). The coins and artifacts were brought into the United States with a valid export license and imported legally pursuant to U.S. law. Odyssey brought the artifacts under the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court by filing an Admiralty arrest action. This procedure allows any legitimate claimant with an interest in the property to make a claim.

Spain went to the U.S. federal court claiming ownership of the treasure and the case is currently set for Oral Arguments tentatively scheduled to take place during the week of February 28, 2011 at the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Additional appeals have been filed by groups who have presented documentation indicating that if Spain is correct, and the recovered cargo originated from the Mercedes, they are descendants of the owners of Mercedes’ cargo and have legitimate property rights. Those claimants have recognized Odyssey’s archaeological recovery efforts and have acknowledged Odyssey’s right to a salvage award. (more…)

Sea Search Armada Seeks Rights to 1708 Shipwreck and Treasure Coins Worth $17 Billion

Sea Search Armada, a US-based salvage company, claims the Republic of Colombia owes it $4 billion to $17 billion for breaching a contract granting it the right to salvage the galleon San Jose, sunk by the British Navy on June 8, 1708.

The Spanish galleon San Jose was trying to outrun a fleet of British warships off Colombia on June 8, 1708, when a mysterious explosion sent it to the bottom of the sea with gold, silver and emeralds owned by private Peruvian and European merchants, and lies about 700 feet below the water’s surface, a few miles from the historic Caribbean port of Cartagena, on the edge of the Continental Shelf.

Jack Harbeston, managing director of the Cayman Islands-registered commercial salvage company Sea Search Armada, who has taken on seven Colombian administrations during two decades in a legal fight to claim half the sunken hulk’s riches.

“If I had known it was going to take this long, I wouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place,” said Harbeston, 75, who lives in Bellevue, Wash.

The 41-page federal lawsuit outlines a long, tortuous jpurney through the Colombian courts after the Glocca Morra Co. identified six shipwreck locations, between 1980 and 1985, operating with permission of Colombia’s Direccion General Maritima.

Harbeston claims he and a group of 100 U.S. investors – among them the late actor Michael Landon and the late convicted Nixon White House adviser John Ehrlichman – invested more than $12 million since a deal was signed with Colombia in 1979 giving Sea Search exclusive rights to search for the San Jose and 50 percent of whatever they find.

Colombia tried to weasel out of the deal after Sea Search recovered materials from the ship, proving it was down there. Colombia “delayed signing the written agreement it had drafted, and eventually refused to sign the offer it had made to SSA,” the complaint states. But nonetheless Colombia refused to let it salvage the shipwreck.

All that changed in 1984, when then-Colombian President Belisario Betancur signed a decree reducing Sea Search’s share from 50 percent to a 5 percent “finder’s fee.” (more…)

Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagle Gold Coins from the Shipwreck of the S. S. Central America

by Greg Reynolds

In 1987, there was the greatest discovery of a shipwreck relating to the history of the United States. Yes, other shipwrecks may be especially important to the history of Spain and Latin America. The loss of the S.S. Central America in Sept. 1857, however, had an impact on the history of the United States. Although a recession had already started in 1856, and a major insurance company failed in August 1857, the loss of this ship caused upheaval in financial markets and exacerbated the “Panic of 1857.”

The Library of Congress website reveals that the S. S. Central America “had aboard 581 persons, many carrying great personal wealth, and more than $1 million in commercial gold. [This ship] also bore a secret shipment of 15 tons of federal gold, valued at $20 per ounce, intended for the Eastern banks”. In this context, the Library of Congress website cites several pertinent, recognized 19th century books and other contemporary sources. “As banking institutions of the day dealt in specie (gold and silver coins instead of paper money) the loss of some thirty thousand pounds of gold reverberated through the financial community.” In October, many banks suffered terribly or failed altogether. There were ‘runs’ on many banks by depositors.

The crisis reached its worse point on Oct. 14, about a month after the sinking of the S. S. Central America, which was “Suspension Day, when banking was suspended in New York and throughout New England [http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/aug24.html.” The U.S. economy did not fully recover for years.

In the wreckage of the S. S. Central America, there were thousands of 1857-S Double Eagles ($20 gold coins), which were very scarce before the salvaging of the S.S. Central America. Of all the Double Eagles found in the wreckage, however, only fifty were designated as being Prooflike, and only seven as Deep Mirror Prooflike, by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). In late 1999 and/or early 2000, the PCGS certified and graded most of the coins found in this shipwreck. As far as I know, these fifty-seven PCGS certified 1857-S Double Eagles and one NGC certified 1858-S Double Eagle coins are the only reliably certified, Prooflike gold coins from the early years of the San Francisco Mint, which formally began striking coins in 1854.

I. The Rarity of Type One Prooflike Double Eagles

The 1857-S Double Eagles that the PCGS has designated as Prooflike are unusual in that it is generally the policy of the Professional Coin Grading Service to not designate gold coins as being ‘Prooflike.’ In a Dec. 2000 Christie’s auction, it is stated that a PCGS certified ‘MS-65 PL’ 1857-S is “Tied with two others for finest of 50 PL examples from the S.S. Central America treasure certified by PCGS.” According to the Christie’s cataloguer, who is an expert regarding the histories of coins found on shipwrecks, nineteen 1857-S Double Eagles are (or then were) PCGS certified as ‘MS-64 PL.’

Sources indicate just seven of the S. S. Central America 1857-S Double Eagles were designated as Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) by the PCGS. The NGC has not designated any 1857-S Double Eagles as PL or DMPL. Before the finding of the wreck of the S. S. Central America, it is likely that no Prooflike 1957-S Double Eagles were known to exist. Furthermore, probably all (or almost all) of these certified Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagles are in PCGS holders with their respective original gold foil inserts (labels) that were specially designed for coins found in the wreck of the S.S. Central America. Therefore, it seems that there exist fifty-seven Prooflike (PL) or Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) 1857-S Double Eagles. Only a handful of these have been publicly sold since the initial offerings in 2000 when coins from the S.S. Central America appeared in coin markets. (more…)

Odyssey Marine Exploration Files Appellate Brief in “Black Swan” Case

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (NasdaqCM: OMEX) has filed its Appellate Brief in the “Black Swan” case with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

In the brief, Odyssey demonstrates that the district court erroneously dismissed the case by using flawed legal analysis and by failing to acknowledge or understand several major aspects of the case, including the issue of sovereign immunity.

Odyssey’s brief cites the recent favorable ruling by the Eleventh Circuit for the salvor in the Aqua Log (Aqua Log, Inc. vs. State of Georgia, 594 F.3d 1330, 11th Cir. 2010) case. This ruling was made shortly after the district court ruled in the “Black Swan” case and is a beneficial clarification of sovereign immunity in support of Odyssey’s position. In the Aqua Log case, the Court ruled that the sovereign must be in possession of the salvaged items in order to claim immunity from the courts in an admiralty case.

“The precedent set in the Aqua Log case is very relevant to the ‘Black Swan’ case and Spain’s sovereign immunity claim. The Eleventh Circuit found, as we had argued to the district court in our case, that a sovereign could not claim to be immune from the jurisdiction of the court when it did not have possession of the salvaged goods. It’s clear that Spain never owned the majority of the cargo here and did not have possession of them either,” said Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey Vice President and General Counsel. “The district court apparently dismissed the fact that there was no vessel present at the “Black Swan” site. The concretions of coins found by Odyssey were scattered over an area bigger than six football fields, with no coherent ship’s hull or structure. Even if that cargo did come from the Mercedes, it is well documented that the majority of the Mercedes’ cargo was owned by private merchants who paid for its transport and the Mercedes was carrying paying passengers. Under well-established U.S. and international law, vessels on such commercial voyages do not have sovereign immunity.”

The opening brief also points out several erroneous factual findings and legal conclusions made by the district court including the following:

  • The district court did not conduct an evidentiary hearing on the disputed issues of fact, unquestioningly accepting testimony presented by Spain. This was a violation of due process for all of the claimants as well as Odyssey.
  • The district court erred in failing to recognize that the Defendant in the case (an in rem proceeding) was NOT Spain or a vessel owned by Spain. The actual Defendant in the case was the group of coins and artifacts (the res in this case) discovered and recovered by Odyssey.
  • (more…)

“Black Swan” Case to Move to Appeals Court

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. has received notification from the U.S. District Judge that he has adopted the Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation in the “Black Swan” case in favor of Spain.

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Although the Judge complimented Magistrate Pizzo’s Report and Recommendation, he also made it clear that he felt a separate opinion by him would “add only length and neither depth nor clarity (and certainly not finality) to this dispute.” The Judge also stayed the order vacating the arrest warrant and the return of the recovered coins to Spain until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rules in the case, which serves to keep the coins in Odyssey’s possession pending the outcome of the case.

“Judge Merryday’s ruling serves to move this case to the appellate court faster, where we feel confident that the legal issues are clearly in our favor. The ruling yesterday does not affect the current operations of Odyssey, and we have not been counting on any revenue from the “Black Swan” in any of our budgets since it was clear that this case would go to appeal no matter which way the judge ruled,” said Greg Stemm, Odyssey CEO.

“We are moving ahead with our other current projects – and it is important for people to understand that the vast majority of our shipwreck projects don’t have the same potential legal issues that have surfaced in the “Black Swan” case. Our focus for 2010 is on projects that are either under specific permits with governments or commercial vessels.”

“We take heart from cases like the shipwreck of the Atocha, which seemed lost at the district court level but was won during the appeals process, granting the salvor the majority of the coins and artifacts from that shipwreck. The Central America shipwreck case was also reversed on appeal and the salvor’s position in the case of the RMS Titanic was substantially vindicated by the Fourth Circuit court of appeals in 2006, so the three most famous shipwreck cases to date were reversed on appeal. I believe that this shows that it is not unusual for district courts to miss key legal principles in shipwreck cases because of their complex admiralty issues. ” (more…)