Fugitive Paul Bennett is due to appear in an Australian Court today after sailing into New South Wales on a stolen yacht.
New South Wales (NSW) Police said officers boarded the yacht at Cowan Creek, north of Sydney, about 9.30pm last night, and detained Bennett and his long-term partner Simone Wright on suspicion of stealing the yacht.
Bennett and Wright have evaded New Zealand Police for 10 months since an arrest warrant was issued for Bennett in relation to a sex attack in Auckland and fraud allegations.
The yacht was towed to Broken Bay and the couple were taken to Dee Why Police Station.
A NSW Police spokesman said investigators from the Marine Area Command attended and commenced inquiries with New Zealand police regarding the ownership of the yacht and the identity of the crew.
Bennett was charged with receiving stolen goods from outside NSW and for an outstanding warrant, and would appear at the Downing Centre District Court today. He was refused bail.
Wright was released pending further inquiries.
Police were notified of the stolen yacht by an Auckland student on holiday in Central Coast, north of Sydney.
Felix Fielding, 19, was staying with a family friend at Avoca Beach when he saw the yacht off shore.
"Something just triggered in my mind that I'd seen that boat before, then I found out online that it had been stolen and might have been sailed up to Australia," he told NZME. News Service.
Mr Fielding said he and a friend drove down the coast following the yacht and reporting its location to police, who took his sighting "very seriously", he said.
"We stopped at the high points in each bay and phoned police each time to tell them we'd seen it and where it was going.
"By the time it was heading in to the harbour we had lost it because it had no lights on and the sun had gone down."
He said the yacht was sailing with a quarter sail.
"Which would mean there's something damaged to it or they're not that worried about moving anywhere quickly," he said.
He believed he was eligible for a $50,000 reward for any information that led to the arrest of the couple, he said.
South Island businessman Mike Jacomb posted the bounty offer and alleges the couple defrauded him of $250,000.
Today he said he was "thrilled" with news of the arrest.
He said he was confident the pair would be brought back to New Zealand to face justice.
"They never cleared New Zealand Customs, so it's not an extremely difficult extradition, it's only a matter of bringing them back here now... They've got a lot to answer for.
"It's taken 10 months of hard work... we persevered and persevered and I'm ecstatic."
New Zealand Police said today it was too early to comment on whether Bennett and Wright would be extradited to New Zealand.
The stolen yacht the fugitives are alleged to have fled the country on belonged to Whangarei couple Steve and Carol Holland.
Mr Holland told the Northern Advocate he was pleased that it had been found. He did not want to comment further until he had spoken to police.
It's understood the yacht has a damaged forestay.
This month the Otago Daily Times reported the couple had been sighted in Dunedin after selling a distinctive BMW to a car dealer last year.
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