WikiLeaks Cables Cited in Lawsuit Over $500 Million Sunken Treasure

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A deep-sea treasure-hunting company in Florida says that diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks have exposed the U.S. government’s backdoor interference in a lawsuit over $500 million in silver and gold coins recovered from a Spanish galleon.

According to Odyssey Marine Exploration, based in Florida, the U.S. State Department cables show that the U.S. ambassador to Spain made a quid pro quo deal to assist that country in its battle with Odyssey for the treasure.

In exchange for the United States siding with Spain in the lawsuit, Odyssey says, Spain was asked for assistance in returning a $20 million Pissarro painting to a U.S. family that says it was unfairly obtained by the Nazis in Germany.

Claude Cassirer is embroiled in a lawsuit with Spain over possession of the painting, claiming that in 1939 the Nazis forced his Jewish grandmother to sell it for about $360 in exchange for an exit visa to escape Germany. The painting is currently hanging in Spain’s Thyssen museum.

Separately, in 2007, Spain sued Odyssey for ownership of the gold and silver coins, which were recovered from the ocean floor off the coast of Portugal in 2007. The company shipped 17 tons of treasure out of the port of Gibraltar on a chartered 757 airline.

Prior to the discovery, Odyssey had been searching for a ship it believed was the Merchant Royal, a British ship that sunk in bad weather in 1641. But the company claimed it didn’t actually know the identify of the ship the treasure came from, dubbing the vessel the “Black Swan.”...

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