Hidden behind a fabulous sunken treasure recovered from a wreck in the Atlantic Ocean lays a story of secret diplomatic cables and Nazi art thieves, according to a revelation from WikiLeaks documents.
Consisting of 500,000 silver coins weighing more than 17 tons, hundreds of gold coins, worked gold, and other artifacts, the so-called Black Swan treasure has been at the center of an acrimonious international legal battle ever since it was discovered in 2007 by underwater robots from Odyssey Marine Exploration, a Florida-based treasure-hunting company.
It wasn’t a fair confrontation, according to leaked documents released by WikiLeaks.
London’s Guardian newspaper, one of the news organizations which receive the cables directly from WikiLeaks, reported that U.S. officials offered to help Spain in the court fight over the sunken treasure.
In exchange, they asked assistance for returning a valuable Impressionist painting looted by the Nazis during WWII.
Black Swan Slide Show
“The cables indicate that the U.S. government provided confidential documentation on Odyssey to Spain,” said Odyssey Marine Exploration in an emailed statement.
The fight over the Black Swan treasure started when Odyssey recovered the coins, valued at as much as $500 million, and shipped it straight to the United States.
Spain immediately filed a claim arguing that that the coins originated from the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, a 36-gun Spanish frigate which sunk off the coast of Portugal in 1804 in a battle with four British Navy ships.
According to an international maritime law known as doctrine of sovereign immunity, active duty naval vessels on a non-commercial mission remain the property of the countries that commissioned them. The wreck and its cargo would then be the exclusive property of Spain.
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