Thatcher can 'easily' prove he was not involved in coup plot, lawyer claims

Sir Mark Thatcher will "easily" be able to prove he had nothing to do with an alleged coup plot in the oil-rich west African state of Equatorial Guinea, his lawyer said yesterday, despite the jailing of his close friend Simon Mann on arms charges.

Sir Mark Thatcher will "easily" be able to prove he had nothing to do with an alleged coup plot in the oil-rich west African state of Equatorial Guinea, his lawyer said yesterday, despite the jailing of his close friend Simon Mann on arms charges.

Baroness Thatcher's son has been freed from house arrest in his luxury Cape Town mansion after his mother stood £165,000 bail for him, but he is not permitted to leave the Cape Peninsula and must report to the police every day. Last month he was arrested by the Scorpions, an elite unit investigating charges against him under South Africa's Foreign Military Assistance Act, and ordered to return to court in November.

"In the circumstances he is coping very well, because he believes he is innocent and is confident of the South African legal system," Sir Mark's local lawyer, Ron Wheeldon, said yesterday.

The main implication of Mann's seven-year sentence in Zimbabwe, Mr Wheeldon told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, was that the court found "no compelling evidence of a coup plot".

The only indication that such a plan existed, said the lawyer, came from "hearsay reports" by Nick du Toit, one of eight South Africans on trial in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, where they are charged with being the advance guard for a coup attempt. Mr du Toit was "apparently tortured", said Mr Wheeldon, "and certainly denied the sort of access to legal counsel that any civilised state would give a person".

Equatorial Guinea has suspended its trial until 1 October while it awaits the outcome of proceedings elsewhere. It has sent lawyers to South Africa, where the authorities have agreed to allow them to put questions to Sir Mark through a magistrate. A hearing for this has been set for next week, although Sir Mark's lawyers are contesting some of the arrangements.

The arrest of the former Prime Minister's son sharply increased international interest in an obscure saga which first came to light in March, when Mann, an Old Etonian former SAS officer, and a planeload of more than 60 alleged mercenaries, most of them former members of South Africa's special forces, were held in Zimbabwe. A day later Mr du Toit and his co-accused were arrested in Malabo.

Statements by Mann and Mr du Toit described a plot to overthrow Equatorial Guinea's dictatorial President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, and replace him with an exiled opposition leader, Severo Moto. A London-based oil trader, Ely Calil, was named as the mastermind of the plot, and Equatorial Guinea has accused a number of Britons, both in this country and South Africa, of involvement. But Sir Mark was not named, either in the statements or in a document circulating in several countries which purports to list "investors" in the coup plan.

The accusations against Sir Mark are understood to be based on an investment of around US$275,000 that he made with Crause Steyl, a pilot who flew Dr Moto from Spain to Mali to await the outcome of events in Equatorial Guinea. Associates of Sir Mark have said the money was for an air ambulance enterprise in Sudan; yesterday Mr Wheeldon said he had invested in "a particular operation by a particular aircraft", and that "it seems some of that money was diverted without his knowledge".

Mr Steyl, whose brother Niel flew the aircraft seized in Zimbabwe, is understood to have turned state's evidence in South Africa, and may testify against Sir Mark. On Friday, when Mann was sentenced, Niel Steyl and his co-pilot were jailed for 16 months on immigration charges, while the other 65 men on the aircraft received 12 months.

In South Africa yesterday there were complaints at the severity of the sentences, given the length of time the men have already been held and the grim conditions in Zimbabwe's top-security Chikurubi prison, where they will serve their time.

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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'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
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk