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Ayinde
Ayinde
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« on: March 08, 2004, 11:50:49 AM »

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3543651.stm

A US-registered cargo plane with 64 suspected mercenaries on board has been impounded in Harare, Zimbabwe's Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi has said.

The Boeing 727-100 was held on Sunday after it had "made a false declaration of its cargo and crew," Mr Mohadi said.

He said the plane was carrying mercenaries of differing nationalities and "military material".

A spokeswoman from the US embassy in the Zimbabwean capital could not confirm or deny the reports.

Mr Mohadi told a news conference that the plane was detained at 1930 local time (1730GMT) at Harare International Airport.

He said the plane was carrying "64 suspected mercenaries of various nationalities". and "military material".

The minister said an investigation was under way to establish the men's identities and their "ultimate mission".

Journalists were not able to see the plane as Mr Mohadi said it had been moved to a military base.

It was also not immediately clear what has happened to those on board the plane.

The BBC is banned from entering Zimbabwe and so its correspondents were not at the news conference.

Alistair Leithead, reporting from South Africa, said there was no independent verification of the government's claims.

The US embassy in Harare said the Zimbabwean Government had not communicated with them about the plane.

Our correspondent said the incident was "intriguing", given that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly accused the US and Britain of plotting to overthrow him.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3543651.stm
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Ayinde
Ayinde
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2004, 06:52:48 AM »

By Michael Padera, www.herald.co.zw

THE 67 suspected mercenaries arrested in Harare on Sunday were on their way to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, to remove the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the Minister of Home Affairs, Cde Kembo Mohadi revealed yesterday.

The leader of the group, Simon Mann, had allegedly been promised cash payment of one million British pounds and oil mining rights in the Malabo Islands. Equatorial Guinea is rich in oil.

The country's exiled rebel leader Severo Moto who is currently resident in Spain, Madrid, hired them to do the job.

Cde Mohadi said this during a media briefing yesterday evening.

He said the group, which landed in Harare on Sunday, wanted to collect arms and ammunition from the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.

"From Zimbabwe the plane was expected to fly straight to Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, landing in Malabo in the early hours of Monday the 8th of March. On landing the group was expected to be joined by co-conspirators already in Malabo to stage a coup to remove President Obiang from power," he said.

After the mission, the mercenaries were to fly to the DRC where the arms and ammunition bought from Zimbabwe were to be handed over to Katangese rebels.

Mann and Nicholas du Toit were assisted by another man only identified as Bonds in planning the coup.

"As part of his assignment Bonds spent December 2003 and January 2004 in Malabo carrying out reconnaissance. It was Bonds who was expected to give the signal for the planned coup," said Cde Mohadi.

He said in the event of stiff resistance from forces loyal to President Obiang, the mercenaries were to fly to a safe haven in Sao Tome and Principe.

Cde Mohadi said Mann had revealed that the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Spanish Secret Service aided the group.

The secret services persuaded the Equatorial Guinea service chiefs, that is the head of police and commander of the army, not to put up any resistance.

They were promised cabinet posts in Moto's government.

The agencies were responsible for the hiring of the Boeing 727-100 from Dodson Aviation and they also provided satellite communication system to link up Moto in Spain, Mann and du Toit in South Africa and Bonds in Malabo.

United States forces are reportedly carrying out military exercises around Equatorial Guinea.

Cde Mohadi said investigations showed that the plane flew from Sao Tome and Principe on March 7, 2004 through South Africa where it was handed over to the crew.

"Investigations are continuing and more information will be released as it comes to hand," he said.

In Malabo, national radio quoted President Obiang as confirming that the 15 suspected mercenaries arrested in Equatorial Guinea were linked to the plane load of alleged soldiers of fortune detained in Zimbabwe.

"A group of mercenaries entered the country and was studying plans to carry out a coup d'etat in Equatorial Guinea," said Obiang.

They were found to be in possession of maps of the capital, Malabo, and satellite telephones, Obiang said, adding they were linked to the plane load of suspected mercenaries who have been detained since the weekend in Zimbabwe.

Although Harare maintains that those on board the impounded plane were mercenaries and threw them in prison, a British company which said it was operating the flight claimed those on board were on their way to work in the mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"We spoke with the South African president who warned us that a group of mercenaries was heading towards Equatorial Guinea ... Angola also sent messages to tell us to be vigilant. That's what I expect of friendly countries," said Obiang.

Obiang said the suspected putschists "were funded by enemy powers, by multi-national companies and also by countries that do not like us," but did not name names.

Equatorial Guninea official radio said Wednesday that the 15 were led by a 48-year-old South African national, Nick du Toit, who was a "trafficker of arms and diamonds".

It added that the others were from Armenia, Angola, Sao Tome and South Africa, and that there was also one German national in the group.

All of them were wanted in their countries, the radio said, adding du Toit had been in Malabo since July 2003 while the others had arrived in waves posing as businessmen.

The radio did not give any more names, but Obiang pointed the finger at opposition activist Severo Moto, who is in exile in Spain, and who tried to mount a coup against Obiang in 1997 from Angola.

Moto, who recently set up a government in exile for the tiny, oil-rich Gulf of Guinea country, was sentenced in absentia by a court in Malabo to 100 years in jail for his role in the 1997 coup bid, and his Party for Progress in Equatorial Guinea was banned.

Moto yesterday denied that he had anything to do with the alleged coup bid, saying in a statement that he "has at no time left Spain." – additional reporting by Reuters and AFP.
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Oshun_Auset
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2004, 10:54:49 PM »

http://www.africaonline.com/site/Articles/1,3,55300.jsp

Staff Reporter
WASHINGTON, 12 March 2004
The United States is categorically denying any connection with the cargo jetliner and its 64 passengers held since Sunday by authorities in Zimbabwe. A State Department official rejected Zimbabwean charges that the plane and the alleged mercenaries on board were part of a US-related coup plot against the leadership of Equatorial Guinea.

WASHINGTON: A senior official in Washington says that neither the aging Boeing 727 cargo plane nor the 64 men Zimbabwe says were on board had any connection with the United States government, and he says claims to the contrary by Zimbabwean authorities are "utter nonsense."

The comments followed a charge by Zimbabwe's Home Affairs Minister, Kembo Mohadi, Wednesday that the aircraft and those aboard had been bound for Equatorial Guinea to take part in a plot backed by the intelligence agencies of the United States, Britain and Spain against the government of the tiny, oil-rich state.

The State Department official said the notion of US involvement is "absolutely false" and that he spoke for all elements of the US government on t issue

He expressed puzzlement as to why such "idle rumours" were being spread, and said despite the highly-publicized allegations from Zimbabwe, that government of President Robert Mugabe had not raised the matter with either the US embassy in Harare or with officials in Washington.

There were similar comments earlier from Secretary of State Colin Powell who told a Congressional hearing US officials knew nothing about the plane other than what they had heard in media accounts.

Powell also said under questioning that despite its strong political differences with Mugabe, the United States has no policy of "regime change" with regard to Zimbabwe. "We have no intention of going in and displacing President Mugabe. But are we disappointed in his leadership? Do we speak critically of his leadership? Yes, we do. And I have been for the three years that I've been Secretary, and think we all should," he said.

The Bush administration last week tightened its targeted sanctions against Mugabe and close associates, adding seven Zimbabwean companies linked to senior government officials to a list of firms whose US assets, if any, are to be frozen.

The State Department said the sanctions target only those responsible for Zimbabwe's political crisis and not ordinary citizens. It urged the Mugabe government to "abandon political repression" and engage in meaningful dialogue with the opposition.





(Voice of America News)

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Forward to a united Africa!
Ayinde
Ayinde
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2004, 06:24:36 AM »

By Michael Padera
http://www.herald.co.zw/index.php?id=29915&pubdate=2004-03-12

An eight-man team from Equatorial Guinea arrived in Zimbabwe yesterday to exchange notes on the 67 suspected mercenaries who were arrested in Harare on Sunday while police and the Attorney General's Office continued with investigations and the framing of charges.

The suspected mercenaries are believed to have been on their way to Malabo, the capital of oil-rich West African country, to topple the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

"Yes, I can confirm we have received a special envoy from Equatorial Guinea. It is an eight-member delegation led by the country's Deputy Foreign Minister," said Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mrs Pavelyn Musaka.

The delegation led by Mr Jose Esono Micha visited South Africa where they held talks with Foreign Minister Cde Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Acting Attorney General Mr Bharat Patel yesterday said his office is finalising charges against the suspected mercenaries. In an interview with The Herald, Mr Patel said his office had instructed police to record statements from all 67 suspects.

He said the suspects' appearance in court would depend on how fast the police completed recording statements from individual members of the group. The group leaders — Simon Mann, Nicholas du Toit and Simon Witherspoon — could be charged separately from the rest of the group.

Mr Patel said in a separate interview with Newsnet that they were likely to appear in court today but it could be tomorrow or very soon thereafter. He could not say whether the suspects would go to court as one group, saying that would depend on the charges preferred against them.

Mr Patel said charges against the suspects were likely to include contravening the Civil Aviation Act but there "may also be other charges relating to the Firearms Act, possibly also in relation to our immigration laws".

In Pretoria, the South African government said its nationals arrested in Zimbabwe and Equitorial Guinea will have to stand trial and serve any prison sentences in these countries.

"We have no prisoner transfer agreement with any country," said foreign ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa. "As with all South Africans arrested in foreign countries, they will have to face the laws of those countries should it turn out that they were mercenaries," he told AFP.

"We do however, offer consular services. But bringing them back would be out of the question."

South Africa passed a law in 1998, which specifically forbids any mercenary activity and which carries heavy penalties.

In Malabo, in Equatorial Guinea, the leader of a group of 15 suspected mercenaries appeared on national television admitting the group planned to kidnap Obiang and force him into exile in Spain, the former colonial power.

In South Africa, the Afrikaans daily Beeld quoted Foreign Minister Cde Dlamini-Zuma as saying that Pretoria was investigating the matter, but adding it was "clear however, that any South African nationals should not expect too much assistance from the government.

"One of the South Africans apparently told the diplomatic corps in Equatorial Guinea what nonsense he committed there. He will have to explain that himself," the paper quoted her as saying.

That man, identified as 48-year-old Nick du Toit, a South African, said the group was supposed to meet other mercenaries due to arrive from South Africa, but that they were told at the last minute the group had been arrested.

In Harare on Wednesday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Cde Stan Mudenge told diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe that the Government would work with authorities in Equatorial Guinea, South Africa and DRC in the investigations.

The suspects were arrested on Sunday night in Harare allegedly on their way to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, to remove the government of President Obiang.

President Obiang came into power in 1979.

The leader of the suspected mercenaries Simon Mann had allegedly been promised cash payment of one million British pounds and oil mining rights in the Malabo Islands.

The country's rebel leader Severo Moto, who is currently resident in Spain allegedly hired them to do the job. However, news agency reports from Madrid said Moto denied involvement in the planned coup but said President Obiang should go, by force if needed.

In 1997 Moto was arrested in Angola and expelled to Spain on suspicion of plotting a coup. He said links to the foiled coup were a fabrication designed to discredit him ahead of legislative and municipal elections due in April.

In Washington, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell denied US government involvement in the issue, but said the plane, a Boeing 727-100, was headed to another country and not Zimbabwe.

"We know nothing about the plane," the US chief diplomat said during an appearance before Congress.

"What we've learned from the information available to us is there are a group of individuals on the plane who were heading somewhere, not to Zimbabwe, they ended there, but that's not their intended destination as near as we can tell," Mr Powell said.

Mr Powell strenously denied the men had been dispatched by the US to overthrow President Mugabe. "We have no intention in going and displacing President Mugabe," Mr Powell said.

"But are we disappointed in his leadership? Do we speak critically of his leadership? Yes, we do," Powell said.

The suspects comprise 20 South Africans, 18 Namibians, 23 Angolans, two Congolese (DRC) and one Zimbabwean with a South African passport and three others believed to be the leaders.

Equatorial Guinea is Africa's third largest oil producer behind Nigeria and Angola. The discovery of massive oil reserves has boosted Equatorial Guinea's economy by as much as 70 percent a year, but critics say the newfound wealth has not been evenly distributed.

Cde Mudenge said investigations pointed to the availability of oil as the reason behind the ill-fated mission.

US giant Exxon Mobil Corp is the biggest oil producer in Equatorial Guinea. Other companies operating there include independent oil company Amerada Hess Corp, US Chevron Texaco Corp, Noble Energy Inc, Devon Energy Corp, Houston-based Marathon Oil Corp, South Africa's Engen Africa, Sasol and Nigeria's atlas Petroleum. — Additional reporting by Reuters and AFP.

http://www.herald.co.zw/index.php?id=29915&pubdate=2004-03-12
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Ayinde
Ayinde
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« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2004, 08:12:31 AM »

The inside story of the ties that bind President Obiang and powerful American interests

By Paul Lashmar
14 March 2004
http://news.independent.co.uk/low_res/story.jsp?story=501017&host=3&dir=69

The tale of the 67 men of assorted nationalities now in a Zimbabwe jail accused of being mercenaries continued to unfurl yesterday like the plot of a lurid airport novel.

A bit too much like fiction, in fact, involving as it does a cast that includes the despotic leader of a little-known West African state, the Eton-educated son of an English cricket captain, fake passports, and a shadowy company registered in the Channel Islands that is linked to SAS old boys. All this, plus talk of CIA, MI6 and Spanish secret service activity, and a plane now impounded at Harare airport that contained equipment more suited to burglary than seizures of power.

Officially, it was announced yesterday that the men will be formally charged on Monday. Unofficially, The Independent on Sunday has been told by security sources that the men were intending to mount a coup in Equatorial Guinea and were in Zimbabwe to buy the arms that would help accomplish that. But then on Tuesday, tipped off by South African intelligence that the team led by Briton Simon Mann was landing to pick up arms bought from Zimbabwe Defence Industries, the Harare authorities arrested them.

But if who paid whom for what services has not yet been revealed, the intended target is not in doubt: President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, leader of a country whose lack of renown belies its strategic significance. And for "strategic" read oil. Not for nothing is this land known in US government circles as the "Kuwait of the Gulf of Guinea". Not without reason has President Bush welcomed President Obiang, a confirmed if not convicted corrupt despot, to the White House. He may be a despot, but as presider over an oil-rich state, he is their despot.

The sight and smell of oil is everywhere palpable in the port of Malabo. From here you can see the flames shooting into the night sky from the offshore oilrigs. Every day tens of thousands of barrels are extracted from huge crude oil reserves underneath the seabed off Equatorial Guinea.It is one of the oil-rich sub-Saharan countries that now supplies 15 per cent of American oil. Experts predict that the amount of oil the US receives from the prolific fields of Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Angola will double in the next five years. Hence the succour that American companies - and, since 9/11, the American government - have given to Obiang. Vice President Dick Cheney has said: "Along with Latin America, West Africa is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market."

Marathon Oil, Chevron Texaco and ExxonMobil control most of the country's oil production with an investment of about $5bn (£2.8m). All this was negotiated by Mr Obiang, 63, who has run the continent's only Spanish-speaking country for a quarter of a century. His predecessor was the dictator Francisco Macias Nguema - his uncle - who, over Christmas 1975, called Malabo's population to the football stadium and had 150 political opponents killed by his troops to the accompaniment of "Those Were the Days, My Friend". Within a short time, two out of three of the elected assembly had disappeared and a third of the population was either dead or in exile.

In 1979, Teodoro Obiang, then governor of Bioko province, overthrew his uncle and had him tried and executed. President Obiang has always been noted for his corruption, and the sudden rise of oil revenues has hardly changed that. Little of the wealth seems to have trickled down to his people, whose average income is a little over $2 a day. Most of the revenues stick in the pockets of Obiang family. One son runs the country's oil interests, another the forestry interests (selling off timber from ancient rainforests). A brother runs the army, another the security service, while most of the generals come from President Obiang's village.

Lest the inequalities inspire the 450,000 population - with or without mercenary help - to rise up, the Obiang family have been buying into the real estate market in the US, spending millions of dollars on properties in Washington and Los Angeles.

President Obiang is also protected by a guard of some 350 Moroccan soldiers. He runs a ruthless secret police and has attracted the attention of human rights campaigners. Amnesty International has accused him of the murder, torture and locking up dissidents.

The US State Department has, in the past, condemned his human rights record. But the US is quick to respond to changing circumstances. When President Obiang visited Washington in spring 2001, the highest-ranking official prepared to meet him was an assistant secretary of agricul- ture. But his status changed dramatically after 9/11. When he visited the US as it marked the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the President was one of 10 African leaders to meet George Bush.

Whoever else wanted President Obiang removed - and leader-in-exile Severo Moto is a prime candidate; last week he told Spanish radio that the President was "an authentic cannibal" who wanted "to eat my testicles" - it is unlikely to have been the Americans.

How 'Dogs of War' author turned coup into bestseller

Attempted coups in Equatorial Guinea have not always been successful for the politically ambitious, but they certainly have been for thriller-writers. It was one such in 1972, for instance, that produced Frederick Forsyth's The Dogs of War, not least - according to some - because Forsyth himself was behind the attempt to depose the current President's uncle.

As a reporter, Forsyth had covered the bloody Biafran War of the late 1960s. He became a convert to the Biafran cause, and, according to one newspaper, plotted to overthrow Equatorial Guinea's dictator to set up a Biafran base to continue their fight.

In 1978, the diary of East End hard man and mercenary Alan Murphy, who took part in the coup plot, was obtained by the Sunday Times. It identified Forsyth as being present at meetings in Hamburg where guns were obtained for the coup. The paper contacted some of the mercenaries involved. It learned that Forsyth financed a former Scottish bank clerk called Alexander Ramsey Gay, who fought as a mercenary in the Congo and then Biafra, where he commanded a brigade of 3,000 men. In 1972, Mr Gay reconnoitred the island segment of Equatorial Guinea for a coup attempt. He reckoned a small number of soldiers could overthrow the government.

As Forsyth recounted it in The Dogs of War, the planning was complex, meticulous and brilliant. The reality fell a long way short, but it did have a certain Forsythian style. Mr Gay had two false passports in the names of Greaves and Mair obtained by using the identities of dead people, a method used in Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal.

Mr Gay hired European mercenaries and charted a fishing boat called the Albatross in Fuengirola, Spain. But things started to go wrong. The mercenaries stood out in the Spanish port, and an official who had been bribed refused to issue a certificate that would have allowed Mr Gay to move the arms from Hamburg to Spain. While the boat sailed for Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Mr Gay went to Hamburg to sort out the weapons. But back in the Canaries, the boat was impounded, the crew arrested and the coup attempt aborted.

At the time, Forsyth refused to comment on the claims. Yesterday he admitted that he was at the Hamburg meetings but said he was not involved in a coup. "A coup may or may not have been planned, I don't know, but I was not involved. I attended the meetings in Hamburg as part of my research for The Dogs of War. I had lots of knowledge about Africa from my time in Biafra but I didn't know how the weapons side would work. I persuaded some people to let me attend these meetings, but I promised not to talk and that's why I did not comment to the Sunday Times.

"Alan Murphy had not realised that I had been at the Hamburg meetings until years later, when he saw my picture on a book cover. He put this in his diary. When the Sunday Times read it they made two plus two equal 73."

Whatever the truth, the exercise proved lucrative. Dogs of War was published in 1974, applauded for its vérité, and became a bestseller.

http://news.independent.co.uk/low_res/story.jsp?story=501017&host=3&dir=69
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PatriotWarrior
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« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2004, 01:48:40 PM »

PRETORIA. SOUTH African police yesterday morning arrested Mark Thatcher, the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, on suspicion of involvement in the coup plot in Equatorial Guinea.

However, Thatcher (51) was later released on bail by a Cape Town court.

At least 70 suspected mercenaries being held at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare were allegedly on their way to stage the coup to topple President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

They are facing charges of breaching the Immigration Act, the Civil Aviation Act and the Firearms Act.

Makhosini Nkosi, spokesman for the Scorpions elite investigating unit, was yesterday quoted as saying Thatcher was arrested in Cape Town.

"The Scorpions have arrested the son of a prominent former British politician. We are investigating charges of contravening the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act," he said.

"This is in relation to the possible funding and logistical assistance in relation to the attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea.

"We have conducted a search-and-seizure operation at his home in Cape Town," he added.

Thatcher appeared in a Cape Town court which ordered him released under a series of strict conditions, including the posting of a two million rand bank guarantee and surrender of his passport.

Thatcher, who was arrested early in the morning while still in pyjamas, was not asked to enter a formal plea to draft charges against him, which include violations of South Africa’s strict anti-mercenary laws.

"I am innocent of all the charges made against me. I have been and am co-operating with the authorities in order to resolve the matter," he said.

But Nkosi said: "This man has a very serious case to answer in court. The Scorpions unit does not just arrest people unless there is a very strong case."

There was no immediate indication that Thatcher faced extradition to Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea, to join eight South Africans, six Armenians and four Equatorial Guineans currently on trial there for the alleged coup attempt in March.

The alleged putsch mastermind, South African Nick du Toit, faces the death penalty and the others face lengthy terms of imprisonment.

A British daily in July linked Thatcher with the leader of that group, Simon Mann.

The arrest comes on the same day as a visit to Cape Town by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and four ministerial colleagues.

Straw was in the city for bilateral talks with his South African counterpart Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Britain’s Africa agenda and to help ease what was said to be strained relations between the two countries.

British High Commission spokesman Nick Sheppard said the arrest would not have an impact on Straw’s visit.

Mark, who was arrested at his Cape Town home, lives in the upmarket district of Constantia, where he is a neighbour of Mann (51), a former officer in Britain’s Special Air Service commando unit who is one of the 70 men currently on trial in Zimbabwe in connection with the alleged coup plot.

The suspected mercenaries were captured at Harare International Airport in March after their chartered Boeing 727-100 plane landed to collect assault rifles and mortars.

Thatcher’s arrest comes a few days after the Zimbabwe Government declined a request from Equatorial Guinea to extradite the 70 men to that country.

The West African country last Friday sent special envoys to Harare to ask for the extradition of the 70, but Home Affairs Minister Cde Kembo Mohadi said this was impossible since it would be against international law.

When the men were arrested in Harare in March, more than a dozen alleged accomplices were also detained at the same time in the oil-rich West African country of Equatorial Guinea, which thanked Zimbabwe for helping to thwart an attempt to overthrow President Obiang Nguema.

The detainees deny the charges and say they were on their way to the Democratic Republic of Congo to guard mines.

Thatcher’s arrest also comes as the alleged ringleader of the plot, Du Toit, gave evidence in his trial in Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.

Du Toit, a South African arms dealer, said the men were never told what they were being recruited for.

"They are innocent, according to me," he said in court.

His comments referred to 18 European and African co-defendants in Malabo, who face prison sentences of up to 86 years.

A 90th defendant, a German, died in prison in Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea, pumping 350 000 barrels of oil a day, has become Africa’s third largest oil producer since offshore development began in the mid-1990s.

The country has accused the British and South African oil broker Eli Calil and other foreign financiers of funding the alleged coup attempt.

Du Toit says foreign financiers plotted the coup, conspiring to put the exiled Severo Moto in place.

Verdicts are expected on Saturday.

Equatorial Guinea announced as the trials opened on Monday that it would seek Du Toit’s execution, contrary to earlier promises that no death penalties would be pursued in the case. – Xinhua/SAPA/New Ziana/Herald Reporter/Reuters.

© Copyright of Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Limited 2001. http://www.herald.co.zw/

SOURCE: http://www.herald.co.zw/index.php?id=35177&pubdate=2004-08-26

~~~~~~~~~~

Note nailed 'Scratcher'

August 26, 2004

By Staff Reporters and Angencies

The arrest of Sir Mark Thatcher was set in motion by a letter smuggled out of Harare's Chikurubi jail at the end of March.

In it, Old Etonian Simon Mann, a friend of Thatcher's who is accused of leading the failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea, referred to a contact called "Scratcher" - believed to be his nickname for Thatcher.

Mann is one of 70 men on trial in Zimbabwe in connection with the alleged coup.

The letter, which was sent to Mann's wife, Amanda, was intercepted by South African intelligence services.

It said: "Our situation is not good and very URGENT. They (the lawyers) get no reply from Smelly and Scratcher (who) asked them to ring back after the Grand Prix race was over!

"This is not going well. I must say once again: what will get us out is MAJOR CLOUT. Once we get into a real trial scenario we are f*****."

Sources close to Mann say "Scratcher" is Mark Thatcher and "Smelly" is Ely Calil, a multimillionaire Lebanese oil trader who has been accused by the government of Equatorial Guinea of being at the centre of the alleged plot - a claim he denies, saying his name was provided under torture.

Mann's letter, which was written on two plain sheets of paper and a scrap of a magazine page, also said: "We need heavy influence of the sort that ... Smelly, Scratcher ... David Hart, and it needs to be used heavily and now."

Hart is a wealthy businessman who advised Thatcher's mother, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, during the 1984 miners' strike.

The letter went on: "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 it's bad times and everyone has to f***ing well pull their full weight."

The letter added: "Anyway (another contact) was expecting project funds inwards to Logo (Mann's firm) from Scratcher (200) ... If there is not enough, then present investors must come up with more."

The letter makes it clear that Mann was expecting Thatcher to make an investment of $200 000 (about R1.4million), although it does not say what the money was for.

The Guardian in London reports today that Thatcher may have made an investment in Logo through a South African company called Triple A Aviation, which in January signed a contract with Logo to provide aircraft and aviation services.

The newspaper says banking records show the company, which trades as Air Ambulance Africa from Bethlehem in the Free State, paid $100 000 into Logo's account on March 2, less than a week before the alleged coup attempt was launched.

According to sources quoted by The Guardian, Triple A provided a twin-engined King Air turboprop which flew the exiled Equatorial Guinea opposition leader, Severo Moto, from Spain to Bamako in Mali on the eve of the alleged coup attempt, in preparation for a triumphant return to power.

But friends of Thatcher's told The Guardian he had entered into a separate contract with Triple A to provide an air ambulance helicopter for work in Equatorial Guinea. "I don't think he knew what he was getting into," one was quoted as saying.

Despite Calil's denial of involvement, Mann wrote in a statement after his arrest in Harare: "Ely Calil asked me if I would like to meet Severo Moto ... I met Severo Moto in Madrid. He is clearly a good and honest man ...

"At this stage they asked me if I could help escort Severo Moto home at a given moment while simultaneously there would be an uprising of both military and civilians against (Equatorial Guinea President) Obiang ... I agreed to try and help the cause."

SOURCE: http://www.capeargus.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=2201406

~~~~~~~~~~

Thatcher 'set to leave' SA before arrest

August 26, 2004

By Johan Schronen

Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime minister Margaret Thatcher, may have been about to leave South Africa when he was arrested in his Constantia home yesterday.

Scorpions sources said Thatcher, 51, had known authorities were investigating him for some time, having interviewed him about "certain allegations" earlier this year.

He has been arrested in terms of the Foreign Military Assistance Act in connection with the alleged plot to topple Equatorial Guinea's president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

Thatcher's friend, Simon Mann, is one of 70 people on trial in Zimbabwe for the plot. Other people including alleged coup leader South African Nick du Toit are on trial in Equatorial Guinea.

British newspapers have reported that Thatcher recently sold several luxury cars and other items.

When the Scorpions raided his luxury home in Dawn Avenue, Constantia, they found personal belongings packed into suitcases and trunks.

Scorpions spokesman Sipho Ngwema confirmed that investigators had been on Thatcher's trail for some time and that information and witness statements obtained recently had culminated in his arrest yesterday.

Ngwema would not confirm media reports that Thatcher was on the brink of leaving the country for the US. But a Daily Mail report said Thatcher had started selling his fleet of luxury cars in recent days.

Investigators feared that if he left South Africa it could take years to extradite him back and that there was little doubt he was about to move abroad, according to the paper.

There have been reports that the Scorpions made their move because Thatcher's house had gone on the market for R22 million.

However, estate agents operating in Constantia said today that the luxury Dawn Avenue home was not on the market.

It has also been reported in Britain that yesterday's arrest, coming when British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was in Cape Town, was intended as a pointed message to Britain that South Africa could not be pushed around.

But Ngwema denied this. He said the Scorpions had not realised Straw was in town, and that they had made their move yesterday "for operational reasons".

The Scorpions swooped on Thatcher at his home about 7am yesterday, armed with arrest and search warrants, and spent the next seven hours going through piles of documents.

Shortly before 2.30pm the Scorpions convoy left Constantia for the Wynberg Regional Court.

Thatcher's lawyer, Allan Bruce Brand of Webber Wentzel Bowens, said outside court yesterday that Thatcher had been co-operating with investigators and had no plans to flee.

SOURCE: http://www.capeargus.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=2201407

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