Three deep-sea divers from Cornwall were today forced to plead guilty in Spain to crimes they did not commit to avoid potentially being jailed for six years, writes Jeff Reines.
Self-employed commercial divers Malcolm Cubin, from Truro, Peter Devlin, of Falmouth, and Steve Russ, of Helston, appeared at court in Santiago, Galicia, for about 20 minutes this morning, following last-minute negotiations with prosecutors.
They admitted damaging and stealing from a wreck and each received two six-month prison sentences, suspended for two years, and a £4,700 fine.
But they have always insisted they never touched the wreck of the Don Pedro, having been licensed by the Spanish government to recover tin from a sunken Dutch ship nearby, the Friesland.
During the salvage operation seven years ago, they were arrested and accused of plundering treasure from the Don Pedro.
The charges have hung over their heads ever since and they were due to face a full trial starting today, which could have resulted in prison sentences of up to six years and fines of £40,000.