78-year-old best selling author and husband no longer faces charges

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Gay Courter, 78, who wrote five New York Times chart-toppers, and husband Philip, a retired documentary-maker, were wanted for questioning in France.

They were facing charges connected to money laundering, receiving stolen goods and export of gold ingots they were given in 1986, but now claimed to be French property.

But on Wednesday, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard European ArrestWarrants had been withdrawn and the couple of “impeccable record and character” no longer face charges.

They have always denied any wrongdoing.

But the six-month extradition case has cost them more than £330,000.

The US citizens, from Cambridge, were arrested in June after getting off a ship at Southampton.

French police wanted to question them after several ingots, each weighing 13 ounces, sold at auction in 2018 for £190,000.

But within days of the sale it was seized by US Homeland Security. Unbeknown to the couple, France had been investigating the missing gold since the 1980s.

It had been taken by divers in 1975 from the wreck of the Prince de Conty, a frigate which sank in off the French coast in 1746 en route from China.

Some of the ingots were given to the Courters by diver Gerard Pesty, a late friend.

Following their ordeal, Mrs Courter said: “Looking back we are like ‘what were we thinking’. We were very naive.”

Mr Pesty had previously sold three pieces to the British Museum and there is now talk of the French trying to force the return of the ingots.

A museum spokesman said: “We have not received any formal correspondence. If we do, we will consider it carefully and respectfully.”

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