Dual UK-Aust citizen denies coin smuggling

A man with dual British-Australian citizenship whose new wife mysteriously vanished as they sailed off the Cuban coast will deny smuggling stolen gold and silver coins worth up to $US100,000 ($A125,770), his lawyer says.

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Lewis Bennett, 40, sent an SOS call saying Isabella Hellmann was missing and his catamaran was taking on water, prompting an FBI investigation.

He was rescued alone in his life raft, where investigators say they later found a stash of silver coins.

A haul of golden coins was also found in a search of the couple’s home in the US state of Florida.

Bennett will appear in court for a bail hearing on Friday after his arrest over the coins.

His lawyer, Marc Shiner, says he will deny a charge of transporting the coins while knowing that they have been stolen.

The search for 41-year-old Hellmann was called off days after she was reported missing in the early hours of May 15, but the investigation into her disappearance is continuing.

During his rescue, Bennett took a suitcase and two backpacks into his life raft but left with just one “unusually heavy” backpack, according to a coast guard.

Special Agent James Kelley alleges that 158 British Year of the Horse silver coins and 77 Canadian Maple Leaf coins were found in Bennett’s raft.

After a visit to the UK, Bennett went back to his Florida home later in May and the FBI returned the coins.

But later that day they realised Bennett had reported to police in May 2016 that coins had been burgled from a sailing boat, Kitty R, that he had been working on in St Maarten, according to court documents.

Investigators returned to his home to discover 162 gold coins stashed in a pair of boat shoes in a bedroom cupboard, it is alleged.

The FBI says Kitty R’s owner confirmed that all the coins discovered were the ones taken from the vessel.