Looting Underwater Sites

Three British divers have plead guilty to looting treasures from a wreck off the coast of Spain:

Peter Devlin, Malcolm Cubin and Steve Russ, all commercial salvagers from Cornwall, were arrested in June 2002 on suspicion of stealing gold and diamonds from a sunken ship off the coast of Galicia, in northwestern Spain.


The three faced prison sentences of up to six years each and heavy fines for theft and destruction of Spain’s cultural heritage. But at a court in Santiago de Compostella yesterday, they pleaded guilty in return for suspended sentences and a fine of €1,000 plus €2,500 costs each.

“We are now convicted criminals in Spain but relieved that after seven years the ordeal is finally over and we won’t have to go to prison,” Mr Cubin (38) a father of four from Truro, said. “We’re disappointed because it’s not what we wanted at all and still maintain we did nothing wrong, but there was nothing else we could do.”

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1 thought on “Looting Underwater Sites”

  1. The Mercedes was hit by a British hot cannonball in its powder magazine and exploded as recorded as fact in history! It was instantly reduced to “flotsam,” ship wreckage debris.” By Laws of War had the ship been seized she would have belonged to the British not the Spanish Government! Not every ship that sank in the high seas or off a country’s coasts is realistically going to be an archeological prize! Salvage is as old as ships navigating the oceans! The Spanish even paid their slave Pearl divers whom they employed to salvage actual Spanish galleon shipwrecks! These slaves who in their own right were licensed salvage divers were paid by Spain by law! Therefore Spain’s failure by Attorney Gould to compensate Odyssey Marine of Tampa, Florida for their technical expertise in saving the 551 barrels of coins minted in South America and abandon over hundreds of years to me was a crime by Spain’s Government! Paying a salvage operator was in fact Spanish Government practice well documented in the book written about the galleon “Conception!” Spain lost its ship in one explosion is fact of history!
    The “prize” cargo of coins did not lay inside any shipwreck but individually upon the bed of the ocean. It is my belief as a trained paralegal that the coins belonged in title to the victor of the sea battle which would have been the English Crown and their descendants! Also is the fact of history that Spain in a Treaty of Paris ceded all its “sovereign” claim to North America for hundreds of miles of the U.S. coastline when that Treaty was signed! Our Federal Court mistakenly gave abandon shipwrecks by Spain by Treaty with England erroneously back to Spain in the Vigo and the other Spanish Galleon salvaged legally off South Carolina! Our government is discouraging legal salvers from receiving a “fair” portion of long abandon cargos on the high seas or in U.S. Territorial waters! Salvage has always been done by third parties to shipwrecks or ships in peril on the world’s oceans! They have always been justly compensated up until recently when Federal Judge Steven Merryday issued his ignorant order for Odyssey Marine to return every last coin to Spain! Where is American justice today…there is none!
    Spain paid its slaves to salvage lost cargo at great peril to themselves but they were at least rewarded with a very small portion of the lost cargo to keep. I don’t believe Merryday read or understood U.S. Supreme Court precedent found in the maritime lawsuit…”Mason v. Blaireau, 6 U.S. 2 Cranch 240 240 (1804).” One third of the cargo is traditional U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence as “fair” reward as a salvage reward for saving a cargo! The legal slave of that period received a generous one fifth sum of the cargo! I don’t believe a counter-suit in Federal Court by Attorney Gould for Spain proved that the U.S. Marine Salvage Corporation “embezzled a part of the property at any time because it had invited Spain to send Marine archeologists aboard the salvage vessel recovering the lost cargo that was more the property of Great Britain than Spain’s since the accompanying vessels of the “Mercedes,” were captured by Great Britain doing battle with the Spanish galleons! The “sovereignty” of Spain was lost at the moment of the explosion when the “Mercedes,” no longer existed as a warship but as “flotsam!”
    The abandon cargo was the “prize” of Great Britain not Spain as fact of Victor takes all war spoils!
    Kurt Spehr – Tampa, Florida

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