The jury in the trial of two men accused of trying to sell rare Anglo-Saxon coins on the “black market” has gone out to consider its verdicts.

Following three weeks of evidence in the case, at Durham Crown Court, the jury must decide if Craig Best, from Bishop Auckland, was actively trying to offer for sale up to 44 9th Century Anglo-Saxon-minted coins, which were in the possession of co-accused, Roger Pilling, from Lancashire.

They must also decide if the men knew that the coins should have been declared to the authorities as ‘treasure’, under the terms of the Treasury Act, 1996.

It is the Crown’s case that the coins, said to be worth an estimated £766,000, were probably from a larger undeclared Viking hoard, unearthed by metal detectorists in Leominster, Herefordshire, in 2015.

Read more: Jury told of Bishop Auckland man's bid to 'sell' Viking hoard coins

Two men were subsequently jailed for a total of 18 years for failing to declare those coins and for selling them.

A further two coin sellers were also convicted for concealing their find.

Three of the unrecovered coins were seized when Best was arrested after being lured to attend a meeting with what he believed was an expert, acting on behalf of a potential American buyer of the coins, at The Royal County Hotel, in Durham, in May 2019.

It was, in reality, a “sting” operation organised by undercover police, and following Best’s arrest, police in Lancashire searched Pilling’s home in Rossendale, from where a further 41 of the coins was recovered.

Both Best, 46, of South View, Bishop Auckland, and 75-year-old Pilling, of Loveclough, Rossendale, deny a joint charge of conspiracy to convert (sell) criminal property (the coins).

They each also deny separate charges of possessing criminal property.

Read more: Rare coin trial of Bishop Auckland metal detectorist and co-accused

The defendants claim that they were unaware the coins should have been declared and that Best, acting on behalf of Pilling, was merely trying to verify their authenticity, and was not trying to sell them.

In his closing directions, Judge James Adkin told the jury that they must either find both defendants guilty or not guilty of the conspiracy charge, and if they convicted them on that allegation, then it would make out the respective second charges of possessing criminal property.

Read next:

Jury told of Bishop Auckland man's bid to 'sell' Viking hoard coins

Rare coin 'seller' unaware would-be buyer was undercover cop

US expert tells trial he thought Viking hoard coins on offer were fake

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But he added that if they found the defendants not guilty of the conspiracy charge, they each could still be convicted of possessing criminal property.

Following his summing up of the evidence in the case, Judge Adkin sent the jury out to consider their verdicts shortly after 2.10pm today (Wednesday April 26).