British mercenary goes to gaol for coup plot – but what about his friends?

The mercenary business, or ‘military contractors’, is globally worth US$100 billion a year. Simon Mann, who has been sentenced to 34 years for his part in a failed coup in Equatorial Guinea in 2004, was a main player in this dirty business. In the 1990s, one of his companies, Executive Outcomes, earned millions from the Angolan government for recapturing and guarding oil installations. Another, Sandline International, earned £5.6 million for smuggling arms into Sierra Leone against a UN embargo and was active in the civil war. They also put down a rebellion on the island of Bougainville for the government of Papua New Guinea and Rio Tinto Zinc.

Many of those captured with Mann were former apartheid death squad members. For instance, his second-in-command, Nick du Toit, who led the coup advance party, was CO of a unit called Reconnaissance Commando 5 which massacred 14 unarmed civilians in Gabarone, Botswana in June 1985. Mann and the others are cold-blooded hired killers.

We explained in FRFI 181 how Spain, as the former colonial power, planned to use the 2004 coup in Equatorial Guinea as an excuse to intervene to ‘restore order’ and install exiled opposition leader Severo Moto as president. We also explained that Britain and the US approved of the plan and how behind it all lay the drilling rights to Equatorial Guinea’s oil reserves, the third largest in sub-Saharan Africa.

At his trial Mann admitted the role of the US and Spain, but kept quiet about Britain. He has let it be known that if and when he gets out of prison, he wants to return to the UK.

At the time of the coup, then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was among those who denied all knowledge of it. Within months, Straw was forced to admit to Parliament that Britain knew of the plot over a month beforehand.

Those implicated in the plot by Mann include Mark Thatcher, fined £266,000 and given a four-year suspended sentence for supplying the helicopter to fly in the triumphant Moto, and Eli Calil, a friend of Peter Mandelson, who is alleged to have put up $2 million backing money.

Others have yet to be investigated: a certain ‘JH Archer’, for example, who paid tens of thousands of pounds into Mann’s coup account in Guernsey; Greg Wales, long-time friend of Margaret Thatcher; David Hart, Thatcher’s enforcer during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. Former Tory vice- chairman Howard Flight offered $30 million to be invested in developing agriculture in Equatorial Guinea if the coup succeeded.

Why has SO15, the anti-terrorist branch, been wasting time persecuting a foolish young Muslim woman for writing rubbish poetic fantasies on a website rather than investigating alleged backers of real terrorism? It is inconceivable that MI5 and MI6 knew nothing of this conspiracy.

Finally we have the usual ‘black hole of Calcutta’ stories about Mann’s conditions in the Black Beach prison in Equatorial Guinea. The wing he is kept in is newly built. He has appeared on TV in apparently good health – his manacles were even fitted over his trousers so as not to chafe his legs. He said he gets a glass of wine with his lunch. You don’t get wine in Pentonville.

Thomas Atkins

FRFI 204 August / September 2008


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