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Posted: September 21, 2011 6:30 p.m.

Treasure seekers must give back silver

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - A federal appeals court has ruled that Florida deep-sea explorers must give 17 tons of silver coins from a sunken 19th century Spanish galleon back to the government of Spain.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Wednesday affirmed a lower court decision that Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration must return the treasure to Spain.

Spain says it never surrendered ownership of the sunken ship and its contents. But Odyssey claimed "finders keepers" and asked the court to award it most of the treasure. Odyssey found the shipwreck off Portugal in 2007.

The Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes was sunk by British warships in the Atlantic in 1804.

The company said it was disappointed by the ruling and would ask the whole court to reconsider.

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