Odyssey Marine Exploration filed an emergency stay petition late Monday with the US Supreme Court to halt an appeals court panel’s decision ordering the Tampa-based treasure hunter to hand over 594,000 silver and gold coins it plucked from a 19th-century shipwreck in 2007.
Odyssey lost its latest legal battle last week when the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta denied the firm’s request to keep the coins under the custody of the US Marshals Service until it could request the top court review. The shipwreck explorer has until February 27 to file its brief in Washington.
Odyssey and the Spanish government have been engaged in a legal battle in the United States over the estimated $500,000 worth of coins brought to the surface nearly five years ago from the remains of the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, which was sunk off the coast of Portugal by the British navy in 1804.
Since then, Odyssey has lost the case at three federal court levels and its only hope is for a favorable ruling at the Supreme Court. The justices will take around three months after Odyssey files its request for a review to either reject it or accept to study the case.
Odyssey has held that the ship was a private mail courier ferrying passengers and treasures from Lima to Spain when it was sunk. But the US courts have ruled that the frigate belonged to the Spanish government at the time.