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Saul’s wreck firm investigated

A marine salvage company part-owned by former Premier David Saul is being investigated by UK authorities for allegedly exploring an 18th century wreck without permission.

Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration (OME) discovered the wreck of HMS Victory in the English Channel in 2008. The warship sank in 1744 and is believed to have gone down with bronze cannon and gold coins now worth an estimated $900 million.

But the UK Government's marine watchdog, the Marine Management Organisation, is now probing OME's activities at the site following complaints from archaeologists and descendants of some of the 1,000 men who perished on-board the vessel in 1744.

The UK Government donated the wreck to the Maritime Heritage Foundation charity, which then signed a deal with OME to salvage any of Victory's valuable cargo. OME is to receive the equivalent of 80 percent of the value of recovered bullion and 50 percent of the value of artefacts such as cannons.

But UNESCO regulations stipulate that, even though a salvage company may have permission from the owner to explore a wreck, it still requires a licence from Government before it can start work on the site.

And according to a report in The Independent on Sunday newspaper, that ministerial approval has yet to be granted.

“Investigators are understood to be studying footage from a TV documentary filmed on an Odyssey vessel that seems to show the discovery of a human skull in mud on the sea floor,” the article stated, adding that the Marine Management Organisation is “currently undertaking an investigation into alleged activity in relation to the site of HMS Victory”.

The article also quoted an OME spokesman as saying: “Odyssey always seeks to fully comply with applicable regulatory regimes on projects that fall under the jurisdiction of government agencies, including the regulations of the Marine Management Organisation.”

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Published October 29, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 28, 2013 at 11:13 pm)

Saul’s wreck firm investigated

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