Alleged coup plot man tries to protect accounts

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The Independent Online

Lawyers for Simon Mann, the ex-SAS officer who allegedly plotted a coup in Equatorial Guinea, were yesterday fighting off an attempt by the west African state to access his bank accounts in the Channel Islands.

Lawyers for Simon Mann, the ex-SAS officer who allegedly plotted a coup in Equatorial Guinea, were yesterday fighting off an attempt by the west African state to access his bank accounts in the Channel Islands.

In a Guernsey courtroom, the lawyers said the attempt to obtain the names of alleged conspirators said to have paid money into his bank accounts should be thrown out.

Mr Mann is being held in Zimbabwe in connection with an attempt to buy arms for a planned coup inEquatorial Guinea. According to court papers in the African state, where soldiers were allegedly caught carrying out the coup, establishment figures in Britain are alleged to have helped bankroll the plot in return for a cut of oil revenue. The affair commanded international attention last month when Mark Thatcher, son of the former Prime Minister, was arrested on suspicion of helping the alleged conspiracy.

Yesterday, Mr Mann's advocate Nick Barnes told the court: "These claims have been dressed up as civil proceedings in order to obtain the very information that is needed for criminal proceedings. It is putting the authorities in the position of helping a foreign state without using the correct way."

He said there were concerns about how the information would be used and asked that the local court not give an order for the names to be released until more information is known about a pending civil action in the British courts. It is believed that Equatorial Guinea wants to take those it believes bankrolled Mr Mann to the civil courts in order to claim compensation for the extra security forces it has now employed.

Mr Barnes said it was "extraordinary" that a government was trying to sue individuals in this way. He suggested following Britain's lead in waiting until criminal proceedings in Zimbabwe are completed before going ahead with any civil case.

Alan Merrien, for Equatorial Guinea, said certain bank details had already been given to its attorney-general, but that more information was sought. "To identify the conspirators it is necessary to identify those who paid money into the accounts," he said. "No evidence is needed on those in custody but is needed to support proceedings in this plot, starting in England and elsewhere." But Mr Barnes said a conspiracy had yet to be proved.

Whether the island's courts have jurisdiction to release the information will be discussed further when the case resumes tomorrow morning.

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