Top European figures accused of fuelling African crises to rake in fortunes

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Simon Mann has accused Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, of an Equatoguinean coup plot in 2004. Last week, the son of former French President Francois Mitterand, and an ex-interior minister were convicted for their involvement in the Anglogate scandal. Observers have noted that many influential western figures have preyed on most African crises to rake in fortunes. Last year, a former Russian lieutenant, Viktor Bout, was charged with arms supply to former wartorn Liberia.

Yesterday, the freed British mercenary, Simon Mann called for the prosecution of the son of Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister, in his involvement in the 2004 Equatoguinean coup. Mann, 57, was sentenced to a 34-year prison term for planning a coup to overthrow the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of the small Oil-rich Central African country, in 2008 but was pardoned Tuesday on humanitarian ground by the President.

Shortly after being released from prison, Mann said Mark Thatcher and a London-based Lebanese businessman, Calil, have to explain their parts in the failed coup. “…But as far as I’m concerned, I am very anxious that Calil, Thatcher and one or two of the others, should face justice. I am very happy to restate those things in court in the UK as a witness for the prosecution,” Mann said.

Mann lived in South Africa for many years, setting up two security companies that actively participated in civil wars across Africa -– guarding Angola oil infrastructures and engaging rebels in Sierra Leone. In his trial last year, Simon Mann testified that Mark Thatcher funded a US$350,000 small plane to be used to transport the former opposition of Equatorial Guinea, Savero Moto, should the coup succeed.

Mann and Francois Mitterand are not the first people convicted of illegal arms deal to Africa. Last year, former Russian lieutenant, Viktor Bout, was arrested on charges of supplying arms to former Liberia president, Charles Taylor during the brutal civil war that consumed the country.

However, the freed Briton said he had been used as a pawn in the unsuccessful coup, while insisting that he was only the “manager not the architect” of the plot. These claims had earlier been denied by Thatcher who said, in his trial in 2005, that he knew nothing of the plot, but admitted in a South African court that he had unknowingly sponsored a mercenary operation on a sovereign state. He was fined a huge sum of money and given a suspended jail term.

Mr Mann, a trained soldier of the prestigious, Sandhurst, military academy in the UK, with sixty others were first arrested in 2004 in Zimbabwe after the plane they were traveling in was impounded. A court in Harare jailed them on ammunition charges, and in 2008 Mann was extradited to Equatorial Guinea where he confessed planning to overthrow the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Mann, after spending only 15 months in a Malabo prison arrived yesterday in Britain and had expressed appreciation to the president of Equatorial Guinea. “I’m hugely grateful to President Obiang for releasing me. It’s the best, best early Christmas present I could have possible ever imagined,” he said. Among those pardoned is a South African, Nick du Toit.

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