Mark Thatcher must face questioning over Guinea 'coup plot'
Thursday 25 November 2004
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.
Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'
- 1 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 2 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 NHS staff banned from drinking tea or coffee on the job because it looks like they're not working hard enough
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Nathan Cirillo: Final pictures emerge of soldier moments before he was shot dead by Ottowa gunman
Ottawa shootings: Terror strikes Canadian capital as attacks leave one soldier and one suspect dead
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
£21 - £22 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Randstad Education has been help...
£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently seeking dy...
£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ICT & Business Studies Teacher f...
£22000 - £24000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer (1st...