THE SPANISH government has made a gentleman’s agreement with the USA to get back the treasure from the sunken ‘Black Swan’ ship.
According to a leaked diplomatic cable, USA authorities gave Spain the customs documents filled out by private American firm Odyssey, which recovered the treasure in May 2007.
Spanish officials needed the customs documents to show the courts that the treasure belongs to them.
In return, Spanish ambassador agreed to help a US citizen, Claude Cassirer, recover a painting which was looted by the Gestapo.
The painting by French painter Camille Pissarro is now in the Thyssen museum in Madrid.
The cable published on the Wikileaks website states: “The USA ambassador noted that while the Odyssey and Cassirer claim were on separate legal tracks, it was in both governments’ interest to… resolve both matters in a way that favoured the bilateral relationship.”
An Odyssey representative said in a statement: “The cables seem to indicate that someone in the USA State Department has literally offered to sacrifice Odyssey… in exchange for the return of one painting to one USA Citizen.”
A cable goes on to say that the U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Eduardo Aguirre met with Spanish Minister of Culture Cesar Antonio Molina in June 2008 to broker a deal.
Odyssey recovered over half a million silver coins and hundreds of gold objects from Peru on a ship they code-named the ‘Black Swan’.
Florida-based Odyssey claims the ship was on a commercial mission and was found in international waters, making it fair game for those found it.
Spain, however, contests that the ‘Black Swan’ is in fact the Mercedes galleon sunk by the British off Gibraltar in 1804.
A sunken military ship belongs to the nation whose colours it flew.
The legal case is widely expected to end up in the USA Supreme Court.
The sinking of the Mercedes led Spain to declare war on Britain and re-enter the Napoleonic Wars.