BEIJING, May 21 -- Authorities in Spain are looking into whether a
U.S. company can be charged with stealing Spanish heritage for excavating
colonial-era treasure from a sunken British warship.
Odyssey Marine Exploration said on Friday it had discovered the ship -
along with gold and silver coins worth an estimated 500 million U.S.
dollars - somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.
The treasure-hunting company would not say exactly where the ship was,
citing security concerns, but said the site was outside any country's
Spain's Culture Ministry said it thought the statement was "suspicious,"
after Odyssey had sought permission to explore Spanish waters for the wreck of a
British ship, according to the national news agency Efe.
Spain granted the company permission in January to search for the HMS
Sussex, which sank in a 1694 storm off Gibraltar while leading a British fleet
into the Mediterranean Sea for war against France.
That permission was only for exploration, however, and did not extend to
extraction, the ministry said, according to Efe. Odyssey had previously been
searching off the Spanish coast, but suspended operations there in 2005 after
complaints from the Spanish government.
A chartered cargo jet recently landed in the U.S. to unload plastic
containers packed with 500,000 coins - expected to fetch an average of 1,000
U.S. dollars each from collectors and investors.
Historians believe the 48-meter warship was carrying 9 tons of gold coins
to buy the loyalty of the Duke of Savoy, a potential ally in southeastern
Odyssey has said it believes the coins also could fetch more than 500
million U.S. dollars.