Simon Mann In Full: African Coup Plotter Points Fingers

| Wed Jun. 18, 2008 5:15 PM EDT

2574156714_854fb57b34.jpg

You wouldn't know it from the American newspapers, but if you click on virtually any British news site today (try here, here, and here), you'll read of a courtroom drama currently unfolding in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in which British mercenary Simon Mann is casting blame far and wide for the failed 2004 coup plot that aimed to topple the local dictator, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

Details of the coup itself are already widely known, the subject of numerous magazine articles and several books, but in case you missed it: In March 2004, Mann was arrested along with 70 other mercenaries while their plane was refueling on the tarmac of an airport in Zimbabwe during a brief, late-night stopover while en route from South Africa to Equatorial Guinea. The mercenaries were carrying with them 61 AK-47s, 20 light machine guns, 50 heavy machine guns, 100 RPGs, along with tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition—equipment they said they intended to use to secure a mine in the Congo. The Zimbabwean authorities didn't buy it, and Mann spent the next several years in a Harare prison. He was later released for good behavior, but immediately extradited to face criminal charges in Equatorial Guinea, where, if convicted, he could serve up to 32 additional years in prison.

Today in the Malabo courtroom, testifying in his own defense, Mann seemed eager to bring down his co-conspirators, if only perhaps to lessen his own sentence. The Eton-educated, former British special forces officer gave detailed accounts of the plotters motivations—namely, to replace Obiang with a new president who would give conspirators a cut of the country's sizable oil wealth—as well as the leadership structure of the conspiracy.

Among Mann's accusations:

Advertise on MotherJones.com

  • Mark Thatcher, son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, not only invested in the coup, "he came on board completely and became a part of the management team."
  • Ely Calil, a British businessman who made his millions negotiating oil concessions in Nigeria, was the "boss" of the coup attempt.
  • The governments of Spain and South Africa signed off on the coup and made arrangements to recognize the new government, had the conspiracy succeeded. In effect, the coup was "like an official operation" with a "green light" from both governments.
  • Spain secretly offered to send a contingent of Civil Guards to help safeguard the new government after Obiang's ouster.
  • A South African intelligence liaison said President Thabo Mbeki intended to call the new president of Equatorial Guinea after the coup to offer his support.
  • Both the Spanish and South African governments quickly denied Mann's allegations, but, says Mann, "their involvement was clandestine, and they will never admit it." Meanwhile, Thatcher and Calil remain free.

    Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Podknox.