After three years on the run, Tommy Thompson was arrested in a Florida hotel in January last year. Since December he has been held in contempt of court for violating a plea bargain by refusing to respond to questions - and ordered to pay $1000 a day until he co-operates.

According to a report in the Sun Sentinel, Thompson had claimed to suffer from a neurological disorder that caused memory problems. But a psychiatric evaluation revealed no more than minor memory loss, leading to federal judge Algernon Marbley's ruling.

The early paddle-steamer Central America sank in a hurricane off South Carolina to a depth of about 2.5km. She had been sailing from Panama to New York with 425 passengers and crew and a reported 14 tons of gold aboard. There were few survivors of the sinking.

Large amounts of gold and artefacts were recovered by Thompson’s salvage team from 1988 using ROVs, although the haul, estimated to be worth more than $100 million, was thought to represent only a small proportion of the gold aboard. Thompson eventually went into hiding after being sued by investors and crew for lack of returns on expedition profits.

Thompson had claimed that the gold had been turned over to a trust in Belize, but had provided no details about its whereabouts.

Divernet - The Biggest Online Resource for Scuba Divers