Sunken Property

Sometimes it’s the relatively small stories that speak volumes.  For example, among the ongoing documents flood from Wikileaks came this:

For years, Tampa’s Odyssey Marine treasure hunting company has been fighting with the Spanish government over 17 tons of gold and silver coins that Odyssey discovered and brought up off the Atlantic Ocean floor.

Now, it turns out, Spain has been getting secret help since 2007 from an unlikely source: The U.S. government.

Among the thousands of documents released by WikiLeaks are several U.S. diplomatic cables describing how U.S. ambassadors were helping Spain in their cause – partly to help broker a deal to bring a famous painting in Spain to a U.S. citizen who claimed it was looted by the Nazis in World War II.  Specifically, the U.S. offered to provide confidential customs documents prepared by Odyssey that Spain in turn planned to use in court to fight the company.

That this involves a case of the U.S. government leaking confidential documents for their own purposes is hilarious, considering the tone adopted when others do it at pretty much zero gain to themselves is “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!”.   However, that’s not what caught my eye about it.  This is:

Odyssey found the treasure in May 2007 and has since argued that the treasure was on board a Spanish commercial vessel. The ship sank in international waters, possibly in 1804 while carrying commercial goods from Peru, Odyssey says, and was thus fair game for any salvage company that found it. Odyssey is now locked in a protracted legal battle with Spain, which claims the treasure was on a military mission at the time, and thus Spanish property forever. (emphasis mine)

Seriously?  Forever-ever?  Even if abandoned property were to be viewed as perpetually owned by whoever left it behind, how do we know the Spanish government didn’t initially get that gold by stealing it in the first place?

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About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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3 Responses to Sunken Property

  1. Todd S. says:

    How does treasure undertake a mission in the first place? I can’t stand how they are just making up rules to suit their whims.
    the treasure was on a military mission at the time, and thus Spanish property forever

    And thus? What does being on a military mission have to do with absentee ownership in perpetuity?

  2. B Psycho says:

    How does treasure undertake a mission in the first place?

    Use it as expensive paperweights?

  3. Tristan says:

    how do we know the Spanish government didn’t initially get that gold by stealing it in the first place?

    I think its near certain that they did steal it in the first place.

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