Señora de las Mercedes - Third Party Demands Acquisition of Gold
More than 17 short tons of gold and silver coins hauled from the ocean floor off Portugal five years ago are at the center of a court case that is before the high benches of justice in Southern Spain, according to published reports.
Spanish vessel Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes was sunk in October 1804 by British forces, according to The Times of Malta. Odyssey Marine Exploration, a Florida outfit that searches for and pulls up shipwreck remains, says it discovered the ship and it recovered the coins. But Spain challenged the Tampa-based company's claims.
The U.S. federal court system sided with the nation, which this past February seized the contents of the ships whose name translates as "Our Lady of Mercy."
However, a third party has joined the proceedings – six descendants of the owners of the cargo.
"We are not doing this for the money. We are seeking respect for the memory of our family members who died on board the Mercedes," Mathilde Daireaux Kinsky, 49, an Argentine who lives in Colombia told the news source.
She claims a relation to Diego de Alvear y Ponce de Leon, a Spanish general who lost his wife, seven children and the gold and silver coins.
The majority of the coins that were minted in the former Spanish colonies were flown to Madrid. The Supreme Court of Gibraltar is presiding over the case.
The U.S. court ruled that the sovereignty laws point to Spain's ownership of the gold and silver coins but the basis of the argument of the offspring is their ancestors' property was on a commercial mission.
The motive of Spain is not to possess the financial value of the coins, an unnamed culture ministry representative told the news source.
"A lot of people wrongly think that these goods are important because it is money. No, this is all Spanish historical and cultural heritage," the source said. "Our wish is that as many people as possible be able to enjoy it."