FALMOUTH — Deep sea divers from Truro, Falmouth and Helston, who face charges of plundering treasure from a Spanish shipwreck, are considering accepting a plea deal offered by the country’s authorities.
The deal would see the three men receive a 12 month suspended sentence, fined in excess of £5,000 and left with a criminal record for a crime they insist they did not commit.
Professional diver and owner of Force 9 Salvage, Pete Devlin from Falmouth, electronics expert Steve Russ from Helston, and professional diver Malcolm Cubin from Truro are due to face trial in Spain on March 24.
The team has had the threat of six years in jail and huge fines hanging over their heads since 2002.
The Spanish government has now threatened to issue an international arrest warrant if they do not come to Spain to face charges, or plead guilty.
The team has been warned they would not receive a fair trail because of slanted local press coverage.
Father of four, Malcolm Cubin aged 38 from Truro, who is considering fighting the extradition request said that having the threat of jail hanging over his head has been “mental torture” for him and his family.
He said that they would like to fight the case as they are innocent but accepting the plea would draw a line under the whole affair.
Mr Devlin said that the only reason to accept the plea deal would be a financial one, however “galling” it would be to admit to something they were not guilty of.
Pete Devlin’s Force 9 salvage company was issued with a Spanish government licence in May 2002 to recover 200 tonnes of tin ingots worth £650,000 from a shipwreck of the coast of Galicia, in north west Spain.
After recovering only one tin ingot, broken china, bottles the men were detained by officers from the Guardia Civil and questioned about gold and diamonds they had recovered.
A question, they say, which left them totally bewildered.
Prosecutors claim they had stolen the gold from nearby wrecks the Don Pedro and Palermo.
They were also charged with damaging Spain’s “historical heritage”.
Diving equipment, video recordings and computers worth thousand of pounds were impounded by police and the artefacts were seized.
The men say they were also interrogated over several days without lawyers.
Pressure group Fair Trials International has taken up the case calling it a “grave injustice”.
A Fair Trials International spokesperson said: “The case seems to be one of conflict between the Galician government and the central government in Madrid over jurisdiction rights of shipwrecks in Galician waters.”