Guinea coup trial defendant names co-conspirators

Friday, June 20, 2008

Simon Mann, a former United KingdomSAS officer, told an Equatorial Guinea court that he was one of the "junior" members of a 2004 attempt to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, and not the mastermind as the prosecution claimed. In his address to the court, Mann named several others involved in the plot including Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Chelsea-based Lebanese billionaire Ely Calil, whom Mann alleges was one of the major players.

The planned coup was allegedly plotted and bankrolled by a group of influential figures, including Calil, in an attempt to put self-declared opposition leader Severo Moto — currently living in exile in Madrid, Spain — in power and claim the profits from de facto ownership of the country's oil reserves. Mann, who had run mercenaries in civil conflicts in other African countries, claims Calil convinced him to run the operation through financial and moral incentives. "They knew I would be sympathetic to the story they told about the oil money not getting to the people," he told the court. Mann claimed that he was told the coup was supported by South Africa, Spain and the United States, as well as several unnamed oil companies, and that the conspirators included several members of Nguema's own parliament who kept watch of his movements.

Mann was arrested in Zimbabwe at Harare airport in 2004 on the way to Equatorial Guinea along with 61 alleged accomplices. He was found guilty of attempting to buy arms for the alleged coup plot, and sentenced to seven years' prison in Zimbabwe. In May 2007 a Zimbabwe judge court ruled for him to be extradited to Equatorial Guinea. Co-conspirator Nick Du Toit, who is currently serving a 34-year sentence for his role, was already in the capital city of Malabo with a troupe of mercenaries when Mann was arrested.