In October 1804, a Spanish frigate, the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, was sunk by a British squadron off Cape St Mary, Portugal. The cargo was gold and silver coins from Lima Peru which were being sent to Spain to finance Spain’s European wars.
In May 2007, the American treasure hunter, Odyssey Marine Exploration found 594,000 of the coins, shipped them to Gibraltar and then secretly flew them on to Florida.
The company claim that the coins were so scattered that they could have come from any wreck. However, since the coins were all minted before 1804 and matched the cargo of the Mercedes, the courts have now decided that the treasure trove rightly belongs to Spain and in particular to the descendants of the 250 sailors who were on board the ship at that time.
As you might expect, Odyssey are appealing against the decision. They say that, if they comply with the court order to return the coins within 10 days, then they do not stand a chance of seeing the coins returned.
PS Apparently 400,000 coins from the Mercedes still lie somewhere on the sea bed. Finding those would be better than winning on the Euromillions lottery.