Britons accused of Guinea coup plot are sued in High Court

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The Independent Online

An Old Etonian mercenary, a British businessman and a Lebanese oil-trader are being sued in the High Court over allegations of an attempted coup in the West African state of Equatorial Guinea.

The High Court writ served earlier this month follows the arrest of 85 men in March over allegations of a coup attempt. Seventy men are being held in Zimbabwe, where their trial is due to begin tomorrow, and 15 in Equatorial Guinea.

The writ served by British lawyers acting for the government of Equatorial Guinea claims the plotters sought to "maliciously overthrow ... the lawful government of Equatorial Guinea by acts which are crimes in England and EG". It also claims they planned the "unlawfully abducting ... injuring ... or murdering" of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea for 25 years.

The court documents name the Old Etonian, ex-SAS officer Simon Mann, London-based millionaire Eli Calil, who is Lebanese, Madrid-based opposition leader Severo Moto, and London businessman Greg Wales as involved in the plot. Mr Wales, Mr Calil and Mr Moto all vehemently deny the allegations.

Mr Mann, who is being held in prison in Harare, gave a witness statement in which he admitted involvement in a coup plot, but it is not clear if he will seek to change that position.

In May, The Independent on Sunday revealed that the government of Equatorial Guinea had asked Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Branch to investigate the allegations that Mr Wales was a key player in organising the ill-fated venture. In denying his involvement, Mr Wales, 54, has threatened legal action against the IoS. On Friday he said he had not yet seen the writ, adding: "It is a joke. I shall give a very robust reply."

Equatorial Guinea is a small, recently oil-rich but still impoverished state. Human rights organisations have repeatedly complained of abuses of the regime's opponents.