Friday, May 17, 2024

James Goold represents again Spain in sunken treasure claim

Covington & Burling of counsel James Goold is again representing the Kingdom of Spain, after the victory in the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes case against Odyssey, this time in a Legal battle against Allen Exploration over who has rights to Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de las Maravilas´ fortune, sunken in The Bahamas and considered by some “the most valuable shipwreck in the Western Hemisphere”


The Bahamas faces a battle with the Spanish government to lay claim to sunken treasure and historical artifacts worth potentially millions of dollars that lie within this nation’s waters.

James Goold, an attorney with US law firm, Covington & Burling, asserted to Tribune Business that any Spanish galleon wrecked in Bahamian waters, as well as the cargo it was carrying, is the property of that nation’s government and not The Bahamas.

James Goold had already represented the Government of Spain in US litigation and UK proceedings to secure recognition of sovereign immunity and repatriation to Spain from US and Gibraltar for estimated $600 million in coins and other artifacts removed from sunken 1804 Spanish Navy Frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.

The Washington DC-based lawyer, who has successfully represented Spain in previous legal disputes against underwater explorers and salvors, added that the Madrid government was vehemently opposed to so-called treasure hunting and wanted its underwater cultural heritage to be recovered and preserved in museums for the public’s benefit.

Mr Goold’s intervention adds a new twist to The Bahamas’ efforts to regulate, and extract a greater share of the proceeds from, underwater wreck exploration and salvaging in its territorial waters. It holds particular significance for efforts by US multi-millionaire, Carl Allen, the Walker’s Cay owner, and his Allen Exploration outfit, to retrieve valuable artifacts from the the sunken Spanish treasure galleon, the Nuestra Senora de la Maravillas.

The Nuestra Senora de la Maravillas was transporting gold, silver and other riches plundered from Spain’s Latin American colonies back to the homeland when it sank on January 4, 1656, near Little Bahama Bank off Grand Bahama after being rammed by one of the other vessels in its nine-strong fleet as they sought to avoid shallow water.

Mr Goold’s and Spain’s legal successes have largely occurred before the US courts. It is unclear whether they would be able to mount a challenge to Allen Exploration’s Bahamas-based activities in the US, and would instead have to submit to the Bahamian judicial system, although the explorer’s principal is an American citizen.

Allen Exploration, has dismissed Mr Goold’s position as “not supported by the law of The Bahamas”. Confronted with Bahamian Law, which seemingly vests the rights to this cultural heritage in this nation’s government, Mr Goold replied: “In general, the legal principle which I represent Spain on is that the owner of the ship remains the owner after it has sunk, and I’ve won multiple cases in the United States for that principle, which is done in order to protect it for museums and study.”

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