Odyssey Marine Exploration (OMEX) was named in several U.S. State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks. Some of the released cables suggest the U.S. State Department offered special assistance in the “Black Swan” case to Spanish officials in exchange for help returning a French painting confiscated by the Nazis during World War II, and now held by Spain.
The leaked cables indicate the U.S. Government also provided confidential documentation on Odyssey to Spain, and support Odyssey’s previously stated version of events relating to the company’s activities in Spain, including the HMS Sussex project and the boarding of Odyssey’s vessels.
“While we are obviously concerned about these implications regarding the 'Black Swan' case, we are attempting to obtain additional information before taking any specific actions. I have personally sent a letter to the Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, requesting additional information and a review of the position taken by the U.S. in the ‘Black Swan’ legal case,” stated Greg Stemm, Odyssey CEO.
“We’ve wondered why the United States changed its long standing position on sovereign immunity, which prior to this case was consistent with U.S. law, international law and U.S. naval regulations that in order for a foreign country’s ships and cargo to be immune from the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts they must be engaged in military, non-commercial activities,” stated Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey Vice President and General Counsel. “These released cables do call into question the motivation behind the amicus brief filed by the Executive Branch supporting Spain in the ‘Black Swan’ case.”
Additional cables released support Odyssey’s statements that, contrary to allegations of certain Spanish officials, the company always cooperated with the Spanish Government and that permits from the Spanish government were granted for work on the HMS Sussex project. The cables also demonstrate the obstructionist activities carried out by certain Spanish officials who had personal reasons for trying to prevent Odyssey from working on the Sussex. These obstructions took place even though Odyssey has an exclusive contract for the archaeological excavation of this UK sovereign immune warship (which was on a strictly military mission when it sank in 1694 off the coast of Gibraltar).