Sunken treasure: Spanish booty flies home after five-year legal battle


Just after noon local time, Spanish military cargo planes flew out of MacDill Air Force Base with a half billion dollars of sunken treasure salvaged five years ago by Florida shipwreck divers, according to The Associated Press.

More from GlobalPost: Peru makes last-minute claim to Spanish booty of the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes

The 594,000 coins and other artifacts retrieved from the wreck of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes but had been the subject of a five-year legal battle in which US courts held that the booty belonged to Spain. The ship was sunk in 1804 by the British navy near the Strait of Gibraltar with all 200 hands aboard.

“These are emotional and moving moments for me and all my colleagues behind me," the AP quoted Spanish Ambassador Jorge Dezcallar de Mazar as saying today. "History will make us who we are, and today we are witnessing a journey that started 200 years ago."

"This is not money. This is historical heritage," de Mazar was quoted as saying.

Peru — which has in the past claimed the gold as sovereign property and was mined and minted in that country — had made a last ditch effort to stop the transfer on Thursday by seeking a stay from the Supreme Court.

The hand-over appears to have disregarded this.

The company which found the wreck and hauled off the cargo, Odyssey Marine Exploration, had repeatedly failed in court arguments that the ship either had not been conclusively identified as the Nuestra Señora or was not on a military expedition when it was sunk.

More from GlobalPost: Sunken Treasure: Spain to send military cargo ships for the booty of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes

Either scenario could have invalidated Spanish claims to the wreck and its contents. Maritime law has customarily held that military ships remain the property of their governments even after they are sunk.

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