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Oil Rich Nation Charges Thatcher with Coup Plot

Sir Mark Thatcher has been charged with involvement in a coup plot in oil rich Equatorial Guinea prosecutors confirmed today.

The 51-year-old South African based son of former premier Baroness Thatcher is accused of helping to finance the coup attempt, said Attorney General Jose Olo Obono.

He was added to the existing list of 19 other defendants on trial in Malabo -the capital of the west African nation – all accused mercenaries, on Tuesday, Obono said.

Documents submitted to a South African court yesterday also linked Thatcher and other Britons to the plot.

Equatorial Guinea intends to seek Thatcher’s extradition, a legal official said.

It alleges Thatcher and other, mainly British financiers, worked with Equatorial Guinea opposition figures, scores of African mercenaries, and six Armenian pilots in a take-over plot here.

The coup plotters intended to force out the 25 year regime of President Teodoro Obiang and install an exiled opposition figure as a figurehead leader for Africa’s third biggest oil producer, Equatorial Guinea claims.

The alleged plot was exposed in March by South African intelligence services, and scores of accused mercenaries were arrested in Equatorial Guinea and in Zimbabwe.

Thatcher was arrested at his Cape Town home in August.

South Africa’s own investigation has also linked Thatcher with the alleged coup plot.

The National Prosecuting Authority submitted documents tom a Pretoria court yesterday that allege meetings took place between Thatcher, British mercenary Simon Mann and British financier Greg Wales.

The NPA claims that Thatcher, former SAS officer Mann, Wales and Crause Steyl – who is now a state witness – had met in Pretoria and Lanseria Airport in Randburg to fine-tune the plan.

The documents said that at the Lanseria meeting, Wales proposed Thatcher as the financier for a helicopter to be used as a gunship in Equatorial Guinea.

At a later stage, Mann, Thatcher and JC van der Linde, Steyl’s cousin, tested the helicopter.

Thatcher deposited two amounts – £11 000 on January 8 and £121,000 on January 16 – into Steyl’s bank account for the helicopter.

It was supposed to be flown from East London to Walvis Bay, where a Russian freighter was to ship it to Equatorial Guinea.

According to NPA documents read in the Pretoria court yesterday, the coup was initially supposed to take place on February 17 and 18.

But the operation was called off when weapons, due to be collected in Zimbabwe, were not ready.

It was postponed with slight amendments, the retraining of “foot soldiers” and a change of pilots, to March 7.

Luxury 4x4 vehicles were supposed to be flown to Malabo in a Russian aircraft and offered to President Obiang as a gift, as “bait” to lure him to the airport, where an “exchange of presidents” was supposed to take place.

Foreign Minister Jack Straw told parliament last week that Britain knew of the alleged plot six weeks before the attempt.

The trial in Equatorial Guinea resumed today, with prosecutors’ lead witness formally facing the death penalty after repudiating his alleged confessions in the case in court on Tuesday.

Three other accused mercenaries pleaded guilty in South Africa this week to involvement in the alleged plot and agreed to testify against others in the case.

Execution in Equatorial Guinea is generally by firing squad.

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