Freed mercenary calls for Mark Thatcher to 'face justice'

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The Independent Online

Simon Mann, the Eton-educated mercenary who was imprisoned for plotting a coup in west Africa, arrived back in Britain today and called for Mark Thatcher to “face justice” over his alleged involvement in the ill-fated conspiracy.

A day after he was released from the notorious Black Beach prison in Equatorial Guinea following a pardon from the oil-rich country’s president, the 57-year-old former SAS soldier landed at Luton airport on board a private Falcon 900 jet to be reunited with his wife and seven children, including his youngest son, Arthur, who was born after his arrest in 2004.

Mann is expected to be interviewed “very soon” by Scotland Yard detectives conducting an investigation into claims that part of the planning for the plot to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema was conducted in London, and therefore could have broken British terrorism laws.

The British soldier’s premature release, just 15 months into a 34-year prison sentence imposed last summer, is widely considered to have been linked to his testimony during his trial that the bungled coup’s organising team included Sir Mark, son of the former prime minister Baroness Thatcher, and Ely Calil, a London-based businessman with interests in oil. Both men, who issued statements welcoming Mann’s release, have consistently denied claims they were involved in the plot.

Before leaving Equatorial Guinea, whose 500,000-strong population has seen little improvement in living standards despite the discovery of their country’s huge oil wealth in the 1990s, Mann said he would be happy to appear in a British court as a prosecution witness to testify against Sir Mark and Calil.

He said: “I am very anxious that Calil, Thatcher and one or two of the others should face justice.” Mann was visited three times in Black Beach by officers from the Yard’s counter-terrorism command as part of their investigation, but it is not yet clear whether he is being treated as a witness or a potential defendant.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “We can confirm we are investigating whether any offences may have been disclosed in this country. We are aware of developments but are not prepared to discuss them further.”

Mann, who was due back at his £5m Hampshire mansion last night, said he was “extremely grateful” to Obiang – who has been described by a British judge as presiding over a regime that routinely uses torture – for his release and the way in which he had been treated.

As well as receiving meals cooked at a nearby hotel and a weekly phone call to his sister, the Briton had an exercise bicycle in his cell and regularly lunched with his host country’s security minister.

In a statement, Mann said: “I regret what happened in 2004. It was wrong and I’m happy that we did not succeed. I am extremely grateful not only for my pardon but the way in which I’ve been treated from the moment I arrived in Equatorial Guinea.”

It emerged yesterday that his supporters had paid £200,000 as part of negotiations to secure Mann’s release, conducted in London in August and September at a series of meetings at the Ritz hotel and the Equatoguinean embassy in St James’s. The sum was agreed to cover the “expenses” of officials after initial demands for a £270m settlement were dropped by the Obiang regime.

Mann said: “This is the most wonderful homecoming I could ever have imagined. There hasn’t been a moment during the last five and a half years when I have not dreamt of one day being back in Britain with my family.”