Mark Thatcher must face questioning over Guinea 'coup plot'

Sir Mark Thatcher suffered a legal setback yesterday at the start of a series of court appearances over his alleged involvement in a failed coup in the oil-rich state of Equatorial Guinea earlier this year.

The former Prime Minister's son, who is due to face charges under South Africa's anti-mercenary laws today, must also submit to questioning tomorrow by the central African state, which accuses him of helping to finance the coup plot.

The 51-year-old businessman appeared confident as he arrived at the high court in Cape Town for his first legal hurdle, an appeal against an order to answer Equatorial Guinea's questions under oath.

But at the end of the 90-minute ruling, a full bench of three judges rejected his counsel's arguments and dismissed his application to have the Equatorial Guinea subpoena set aside. Costs were also awarded against him. Sir Mark said on the steps of the court: "They did reaffirm my right to silence, but it was a long judgment and we will have to study it." Last night his lawyer, Alan Bruce-Brand, said no decision had been taken on whether to appeal.

Yesterday's judgment adds to Sir Mark's proliferating legal problems since his arrest in August by South Africa's elite Scorpions task force. He was freed from house arrest after his mother, Baroness Thatcher, stood £180,000 bail for him, but his passport has been impounded, he is confined to the Cape Peninsula area and has to report daily to a police station.

The forthcoming issue of Vanity Fair magazine carries an interview in which Sir Mark says: "I will never be able to do business again. Who will deal with me? Thank God my father is not alive to see this."

Today he is to appear at a magistrates' court in the Cape Town suburb of Wynberg to answer charges under the country's Foreign Military Assis- tance Act, which carry a maximum penalty of 15 years' jail. Last week three South Africans admitted their involvement in the coup plot and were spared prison sentences in return for agreeing to testify against him.

One is Crause Steyl, a former pilot in the apartheid-era special forces with whom the Briton invested £160,000 to buy helicopters. Mr Steyl said that he was fully aware they were to be used in the attempted coup, but Sir Mark has said he believed they were for an air ambulance venture in Sudan.

Sir Mark may also have to fight extradition attempts by Equatorial Guinea, which has charged him in absentia. He has been linked to the coup plot by Nick du Toit, who is on trial in Equatorial Guinea with eight other former members of South Africa's special forces. A verdict is due tomorrow on charges that they were the advance guard for a planeload of mercenaries led by Simon Mann, a former SAS officer and friend of Sir Mark who has been jailed in Zimbabwe for illegal arms purchases.

Under South African law, 42 questions set by Equatorial Guinea investigators, mostly concerning his dealings with Mr du Toit and Mr Mann, would be put to Sir Mark by a local magistrate in an open court.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power