Wednesday, August 25, 2004

South Africa: Mark Thatcher arrested

Sir Mark Thatcher, the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, has been arrested in South Africa.
[Thatcher's lawyer, Peter] Hodes confirmed his client was facing charges related to the contravention of the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act.

"It has to do with providing finance... something to do with a helicopter," said Hodes.

Thatcher was arrested earlier on Wednesday by the elite Scorpions detective unit in connection with his alleged role in an aborted coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. (source)

"We have evidence, credible evidence, and information that he was involved in the attempted coup," said [Scorpions spokesperson Sipho] Ngwema, adding the involvement may have been financial or logistical. "We refuse that South Africa be a springboard for coups in Africa and elsewhere." (source)
Earlier last month, I had linked to this article that talked about the relationship between Thatcher and Simon Mann, the ringleader of the alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea. There is even more detail in this other article published in The Observer at the beginning of this month.
New documents suggest Thatcher had financial ties with Mann. A letter written by Mann and smuggled out of his prison cell in Zimbabwe shows that Mann was expecting Thatcher to make a $200,00 investment in a 'project', although he does not specify what project.

The letter states: 'This is a situation that calls for everyone to act in concert. It may be that getting us out comes down to a large splodge of wonga! Of course investors did not think this would happen. Did I?

'Do they think they can be part of something like this with only upside potential - no hardship or risk of this going wrong. Anyone and everyone in this is in it - good times or bad.

'Now its bad times and everyone has to F-ing well pull their full weight. Anyway... was expecting project funds inwards to Logo [Mann's firm] from Scratcher (200)'. Scratcher is Mann's nickname for Thatcher. A spokesman for Mr Thatcher has denied that he had any knowledge of the coup plot.
Brief bio of Thatcher from the BBC ...

UPDATE: Ten days ago, the Mail on Sunday carried a story that said the government of Equatorial Guinea was seeking an international warrant for Thatcher.
[...] Equatorial Guinea attorney general Jose Olo Obono, said international arrest warrants were now being sought. He said: 'We are preparing applications for extradition of a number of suspects, including Mark Thatcher and Eli Calil. We propose that they are charged with conspiracy to kill or capture the president and conspiracy to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea.'

In an exclusive interview, the country's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema vowed to bring to justice the 'bloodthirsty pirates' he says financially backed the coup.

He told The Mail on Sunday: 'I intend to pursue all those who invested in the project through the courts in Britain and elsewhere, and by every means possible.

'The crimes they intended, which include multiple murder, would have been committed here and this is where I believe they should be brought to face the consequences.' President Obiang, who has been accused of human rights abuses by Amnesty International, has three Paris lawyers working fulltime on investigations in Britain, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe.

His lawyers have also held talks with senior Home Office officials about the possibility of extraditing British citizens to stand trial.

For extradition to take place, Equatorial Guinea would have to agree to suspend its maximum penalty execution by firing squad.1
1: Jones, Barbara. (2004, August 15). African leader: Arrest Mark Thatcher over coup plot. Mail on Sunday.