Du Toit may be pardoned in return for 'co-operation'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

One of the men accused of masterminding the attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea could be pardoned, the country's government said yesterday, after a court in the capital Malabo postponed his sentencing to examine Sir Mark Thatcher's alleged links to the plot.

One of the men accused of masterminding the attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea could be pardoned, the country's government said yesterday, after a court in the capital Malabo postponed his sentencing to examine Sir Mark Thatcher's alleged links to the plot.

Ricardo Obama Nfube, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that Nick du Toit may receive mercy in exchange for co-operation with the authorities. He also stated that Equatorial Guinea had asked for international arrest warrants to be issued for Sir Mark, who was arrested at his home in Cape Town, South Africa, last week.

The trial of Mr Du Toit and 18 other men accused of being mercenaries planning to carry out a coup in Equatorial Guinea resumed yesterday, with the focus moving to the alleged role of Sir Mark. Mr Du Toit has claimed that Sir Mark was at a planning meeting for the coup to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang. Sir Mark has denied any involvement in the coup.

The prosecution in the capital of the oil-rich west African state has asked for sentencing to be postponed and for a number of witnesses to be re-examined about what they know about the supposed involvement of Baroness Thatcher's son.

Among those allegedly involved in the coup are Simon Mann, a former SAS soldier convicted in Zimbabwe last week of attempting to acquire weapons for the operation, and Ely Calil, a Lebanese businessman based in London. He is accused of being one of the main bankrollers. He has also denied any involvement. Interpol could not confirm yesterday that it had received a request for warrants.

Adding to the confusion Mr Nfube insisted yesterday that Equatorial Guinea had not asked South Africa to extradite Sir Mark. But he said that any additional information gleaned about complicity in the plot could be used in a civil action against Mr Calil and other alleged UK backers of the plot being pursued in London.

The chief prosecutor, Jose Olo Obono, has sought the death penalty for Mr Du Toit, a South African citizen accused of being the head of a "Trojan Horse" detachment of mercenaries inside Malabo, preparing for the arrival of a larger group led by Mr Mann. But Mr Njube said it was within the constitutional powers of the chief of state, President Obiang, to pardon Mr Du Toit and his fellow defendants or to commute their sentences.

According to sources in Equatorial Guinea, Mr Du Toit would have to provide much more detailed information for any deal to be struck. The former South African special forces officer told the court that Sir Mark had expressed a wish to lease two helicopters, but was not involved with the coup plot.

Authorities in Guinea, who claim to have received intelligence from South African and "other" intelligence services, say Sir Mark offered to finance a helicopter to take Severo Moto, an exiled opposition leader, into Equatorial Guinea from a neighbouring state. It is claimed that the aim of the coup was to replace President Obiang with Mr Moto, with the foreign backers of the uprising receiving promises of vast rewards from the new government as well as concessions for oil exploration.

Sir Mark is involved in an air ambulance service called Triple A Aviation. Last January the company signed a contract to supply aircraft and aviation services to Logo Logistics, a firm owned by Mr Mann. Sir Mark has insisted to South African authorities that this meant only the supply of an air ambulance.

The Guinea authorities also want to investigate any possible links between the pilot, Niel Steyl, and Sir Mark. Mr Steyl flew a chartered Boeing 727 with Mr Mann and 64 companions to the Zimbabwe capital, Harare, from South Africa, allegedly on its way to the coup. His brother, Crause Steyl, is the head of Air Ambulance Africa, the trading name for Triple A Aviation.

Comments