South Africa, Spain and the US each approved a plot to topple Equatorial Guinea’s president, British mercenary Simon Mann told a Malabo court on Wednesday.
Testifying at his ongoing trial, Mann said the Spanish government was 100 percent ready to support the operation, whose participants included Mark Thatcher, son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
The US and unnamed oil companies agreed that the political situation in Equatorial Guinea was unstable and that a change of government would be welcome, he added.
Mann — whom prosecutors allege spearheaded the operation — also said that South African secret services had passed him a message from its head to the effect that it was giving him a green light to mount a coup.
Speaking calmly, with his hands clasped behind his back, Mann’s testimony was translated from English into Spanish by a court interpreter.
Quizzed by Attorney General Jose Olo Obono, Mann said Spain was chosen because it was the former colonial power in the territory, the US because of its importance in the oil sector and South Africa for its significance as a regional power.
Asked about the allegations, Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman Manuel Cacho said in Madrid: “The Spanish government obviously denies these allegations, as it already did in 2004 through Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.”
Mann, 55, said the coup was aimed at installing Severo Moto as president — Moto being a political opponent of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has been sentenced in absentia to several years in jail. Moto is now behind bars in Madrid for trafficking arms to Malabo.
Mann described Mark Thatcher as a key member of the plot, with a role that went beyond raising money for the failed 2004 bid to oust Obiang.
Thatcher had been in contact with Moto to transport him to the Spanish Canary Islands off Africa’s west coast and then on to Mali to await his return to power in the oil-rich former Spanish colony, Mann said.
Thatcher agreed to pay for Moto’s travel costs, Mann added.
Dressed in a striped prisoner’s shirt, Mann said he came to know Thatcher when they were neighbors in Cape Town.
A preliminary meeting with the coup’s alleged creative force, London-based millionaire Ely Calil, had revealed that Thatcher and Calil knew each other, Mann added.
Thatcher pleaded guilty in 2005 to breaking the anti-mercenary laws of South Africa, where he was then living. He avoided prison with a suspended four-year sentence and a 3 million rand (US$505,000) fine.
Equatorial Guinea has already issued an international arrest warrant for Thatcher, who left South Africa for the US.
Mann — who faces 30 years in jail — was arrested in 2004 at Harare airport with 61 alleged accomplices when their plane touched down en route to Equatorial Guinea.
Zimbabwean authorities accused them of trying to pick up arms before launching their coup attempt. Mann said at the time that the group was on its way to provide security to private mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Obiang has been in power in Equatorial Guinea since he overthrew his own uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema, in 1979. Under his rule the former Spanish colony has become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil producers, but the country’s oil revenues are a state secret.
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