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?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage