2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d'état attempt


2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d'état attempt

The 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d'état attempt was an alleged coup attempt against the government of Equatorial Guinea in order to remove its President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, carried out by mercenaries and organised by mainly British based financiers. Equatorial Guinea has vast oil and gas reserves. One US official called it "the new Kuwait". Prosecutors alleged Equatorial Guinea's opposition leader, Severo Moto, was to be installed as the new president in return for preferential oil rights to corporations affiliated to those involved with the coup. It received international media attention after the reported involvement of Mark Thatcher in funding the coup.

ummary

In 7 March 2004 Zimbabwean police in Harare airport impounded a plane which flew in from South Africa with 67 alleged mercenaries on board.cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title= Wonga list reveals alleged backers of coup | date= | publisher= | url =http://www.guardian.co.uk/equatorialguinea/story/0,15013,1301405,00.html | work =The Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-22 | language = ] On March 9, 2004 Nick du Toit and 14 other South African and Armenian men were arrested in Equatorial Guinea on suspicion of being the mercenaries' vanguard.cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title= Ex-SAS officer in 'coup plot' admits arms charges | date= | publisher= | url = http://www.guardian.co.uk/equatorialguinea/story/0,,1291476,00.html | work =Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-22 | language = ] cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Q&A: Equatorial Guinea 'coup plot' | date= | publisher= | url =http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3597450.stm | work =BBC | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-22 | language = ] The alleged plot leader ex-Special Air Service (SAS) officer Simon Mann, was arrested with two colleagues near the runway while waiting for arms to be loaded on a Boeing 727, carrying three crew and 64 former soldiers recruited in South Africa. The majority of those alleged to have been the mercenaries planning to carry out the coup are based in South Africa and ex-members of the 32 Buffalo Battalion, a notorious special force unit that fought for the South African apartheid regime.cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title= How much did Straw know and when did he know it? | date= | publisher= | url =http://www.guardian.co.uk/equatorialguinea/story/0,,1361326,00.html | work =Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-22 | language = ]

The marketing manager of Zimbabwe Defense Industries, Hope Mutize, said in court that Simon Mann had paid him a deposit on weapons worth $180,000 (£100,000) in February 2004 and indirectly linked Mr Mann to the alleged plot by saying he was accompanied by a South African, Nick du Toit, the leader of the 14 men arrested in Equatorial Guinea. "They insisted they did not want any paperwork," Mr Mutize added. Legal sources said Mr Mann had cleared the deal with ZDI's managing director, Tshinga Dube. But news of the deal apparently leaked to the South African authorities, who tipped off Zimbabwean intelligence. Their arms requisition included 20 machine guns, 61 AK-47 assault rifles, 150 hand grenades, 10 rocket-propelled grenade launchers (and 100 RPG shells), and 75,000 rounds of ammunition.cite news | first=David | last=Krajicek | coauthors= | title=African Coup | date= | publisher= | url =http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/cops_others/thatcher_and_mann/index.html | work = | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-29 | language = ] cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Thatcher and a very African coup | date= | publisher= | url =http://www.guardian.co.uk/equatorialguinea/story/0,,1291453,00.html | work =The Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-29 | language = ] cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Coup plot conviction increases the pressure on Mark Thatcher | date= | publisher= | url =http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1008982004 | work =The Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-29 | language = ] Mr Mann, 51, said he wanted the rifles, mortars and ammunition to guard mines in volatile parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It was alleged that those arrested in Zimbabwe made a stopover in Harare city to buy weapons and expected to join a team in Equatorial Guinea to overthrow President Obiang.cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Straw: We did know of Africa coup | date= | publisher= | url =http://politics.guardian.co.uk/foreignaffairs/story/0,11538,1350953,00.html | work =Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-22 | language = ] cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Mercenaries captured in Equatorial Guinea coup bid | date= | publisher= | url =http://www.raceandhistory.com/selfnews/viewnews.cgi?newsid1079008915,47630,.shtml | work =www.herald.co.zw | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-24 | language = ] cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Q&A: the Equatorial Guinea 'coup' | date= | publisher= | url =http://www.guardian.co.uk/equatorialguinea/story/0,,1291463,00.html | work =Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-22 | language = ] Nick du Toit, the leader of the group of arrested in Equatorial Guinea, said at his trial in Equatorial Guinea that he was recruited by Simon Mann and that he was helping with recruitment, acquiring weapons and logistics. He says he was told they were trying to install an exiled opposition politician, Severo Moto, as the new president.

Prosecution and media evidence

imon Mann letter

In a letter from prison on March 31, Simon Mann told his wife, Amanda, and his legal team:

"Our situation is not good and it is very URGENT. They [the lawyers] get no reply from Smelly and Scratcher [who] asked them to ring back after the Grand Prix race was over!......We need heavy influence of the sort that ... Smelly, Scratcher ... David Hart and it needs to be used heavily and now. Once we get into a real trial scenario we are fucked."

David Hart was ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher's unofficial adviser during the miners' strike and served as special adviser to Michael Portillo and Malcolm Rifkind in subsequent Conservative administrations. "Scratcher" is thought to be Sir Mark Thatcher and "Smelly" Ely Calil.

'Wonga list' of the financial backers

The names were allegedly on a so-called "Wonga List" by James Kershaw - then 24-year-old, who was believed to have acted as Simon Mann's accountant. He entered a witness protection scheme after voluntarily surrendering to police on the advice of his lawyers. He was given 24 hour police protection because of assassination concerns.cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=A Boy's Own story gone very wrong | date= | publisher= | url =http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/08/29/nthatch29.xml&page=2 | work =Daily Telegraph | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-24 | language = ] The list, said to have been handed over to South African police by James Kershaw and another former colleagues of Mr Mann, who have turned state's evidence, has been seen by "The Guardian".

Johann Smith intelligence reports

In December 2003 and January 2004 two separate highly detailed reports of the planned coup were sent to two senior officers in British intelligence and to Michael Westphal, then senior colleague of Donald Rumsfeld. The documents were from Johann Smith, a former commander in South African Special Forces and an internationally renowned security analyst who has been an occasional adviser to President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

In a statement by Smith given to lawyers representing the government of Equatorial Guinea, he says he began hearing rumours of a coup in both Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tomé in November 2003 from two ex-soldiers of the 32 Buffalo Battalion who told him they had been recruited for a coup in by Nick du Toit:

"Because I was continuing to work in Equatorial Guinea with government, it was not in my interest that there be a coup d'etat.....'I therefore wanted to warn the Equatorial Guinea authorities. I also considered it my duty to warn the authorities in US and England because some of their nationals might be killed. I submitted a report in December 2003 of what I had discovered to Michael Westphal of the Pentagon (in Donald Rumsfeld's department). I expected the US government to take steps to warn Equatorial Guinea or to stop the coup. This was also my expectation as regard the British government, which I warned through two SIS people I knew, and to whom I sent the report by email, also in December 2003, to their personal email addresses."

The report named several major players arrested in March and now on trial for their involvement in the failed putsch. Smith said the group had hired two fishing trawlers to operate off the West African coast, despite the fact that all but one member of the group had no seagoing or fishing experience.

The report concluded that the commercial fishing operation was a front for the movement of men and arms for a coup. The report also mentioned the group's connections with the Equatorial Guinea opposition leader Severo Moto and warned that any operation would pose a threat to stability in the region.

Second Report

When Smith began to get more intelligence of the plot in January from his former military colleagues who were working for Nick du Toit's South African firm, he sent another report to the Pentagon and SIS marked strictly confidential:

'After preparing and sending my December report I received further information.... I put this in a second report, which I sent by email to the same people as the first one: Michael Westphal of the US and to British SIS contacts'.

Documents seen by "The Observer" reveal that by the end of January, the Foreign Office was being told:

"According to the latest planning, Carlos Cardoso (ex-South African special forces soldier) would, on his return, recruit a total of 75 ex-SADF [South African Defence Force] members, mainly from within the former 32 Buffalo's (battalions) and Special Forces ranks to launch simultaneous actions in STP and EG. These actions are planned to take place in mid-March 2004 (The alleged plotters were arrested on 7 March en route to Equatorial Guinea).... Knowing the individuals as well as I do, this timeline is very realistic and will provide for ample time to plan, mobile, equip and deploy the force."

Smith, who claims he has received death threats since the plot was thwarted, said there was no response from British or US authorities to his warnings:

"The only thing that happened was that the US authorities froze the Equatorial Guinea money with the Riggs Bank in USA."

Network of support and financiers

The Hon. Sir Mark Thatcher

In August 25, 2004 , The Hon. Sir Mark Thatcher, the son of the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was arrested under anti-mercenary laws in South Africa after being accused of helping to finance the coup to remove President Obiang. Crause Steyl was one of the pilots picked to fly the key planners of the coup in a chartered King 200 twin turbo prop aircraft, registered ZS-NBJ, who later turned prosecution witness in South Africa.cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Secret contacts list at heart of coup plot' | date= | publisher= | url = http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-13969112-details/Secret+contacts+list+at+heart+of+coup+plot%27/article.do;jsessionid=QfbyGTNKBTvM7K6NHrxTwrfPgDvhYl7HZnQ2vRyQTWWXHLs0DYRV!1600650677!-1407319225!7001!-1 | work =Evening Standard | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-24 | language = ] :

Crause Steyl: "I met Mark (Thatcher) three or four times. He was a partner in the venture. He put in about $250,000. The money was wired to my company account in various installments. The helicopters cost about $600 an hour plus $5,000 each for the pilots and $10,000 a month for special insurance."

Thatcher has admitted putting money into Steyl's company, Triple A Aviation, but he has said it was to cover the cost of an air ambulance project. Steyl dismissed this explanation. "He knew what was going on," he said. "I only knew him in the context of the Equatorial Guinea business. I didn't know him before and I haven't met him since."

On October 13, 2004 in London, a lawyer for the Equatorial Guinea government said that telephone records showed four calls between the homes of one of the alleged financiers behind the plot, Ely Calil, and Lord Archer in the run-up to the coup attempt in March. Another alleged plotter, Greg Wales, also made five calls to Sir Mark Thatcher in the days after the failed coup.cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title= New Archer link to coup plot alleged | date= | publisher= | url = http://www.guardian.co.uk/equatorialguinea/story/0,,1326040,00.html | work =Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-22 | language = ]

On 13 January 2005, Mark Thatcher, in a South African court, pleaded guilty to helping finance a coup plot in Equatorial Guinea. South African police were able to prove that Mr Thatcher had transferred about US$285,000 to the mercenaries that were to execute the operation and had met and talked frequently to them prior to the coup attempt. After pleading guilty, he was given a four-year suspended sentence and a fine of about US$ 560,000. cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Mark Thatcher admits Equatorial Guinea coup plans | date= | publisher= | url =http://www.afrol.com/articles/15309 | work =afrol News | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-24 | language = ]

imon Mann

Simon Mann paid $500,000 (£281,000) towards the plot, according to a list of alleged financiers in the hands of the South African police.

Ely Calil

Ely Calil, the Chelsea-based Lebanese oil billionaire who is being sued in London by the Equatorial Guinea regime, is alleged to have raised another $750,000. Mr Calil's solicitor said that he did not wish to respond to the claim that he had raised money for the plotters. But he denied any knowledge of the plot.

Karim Fallaha

Karim Fallaha is a Lebanese associate of Mr Calil. He is a director of Asian Trading and Investment in Beirut, which signed a contract with Simon Mann to invest $5m in West African projects. Other than the appearance of his name on the list, there is nothing to suggest he had any involvement in the coup.

David Tremain

David Tremain, a South Africa-based British businessman, is alleged to have raised $500,000. Mr Tremain is alleged to have been "fronting" for a syndicate of South African and other minor investors. Tremain denies any involvement in the coup.

JH Archer

Bank details of Simon Mann's Guernsey firm, Logo Logistics, reveal that a JH Archer made a payment of $134,000 (£74,000) into his account in the days before the failed coup attempt.Lord Archer initially issued a statement through his lawyers stating that he had "no prior knowledge" of the alleged coup and that he had not spoken to Sir Mark for "approximately 10 years".

In January, on the same day the plotters were meeting at Sandton, outside Johannesburg, Ely Calil called Lord Archer and the pair apparently spoke for 15 minutes. Other calls followed in the run-up to the coup attempt. A lawyer for the Equatorial Guinea government said in London yesterday that telephone records showed four calls between Ely Calil and Lord Archer in the run-up to the coup attempt in March.

evero Moto

Prosecutors said Equatorial Guinea's opposition leader, Severo Moto, based in Spain, offered the group $1.8m and oil rights to overthrow the government.

Tim Bell

Timothy Bell, Lady Thatcher's former spin doctor, is linked to the case by "advising" Mr Mann's friends. Baron Bell has said that as far as he was aware neither Sir Mark nor Mr Hart were involved in the alleged coup.

Greg Wales/ US administration

President Obiang accused the US of backing the plot, but the Pentagon denies supporting it. US officials say it was Greg Wales who made all the approaches to them.cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Pentagon link to Guinea coup plot | date= | publisher= | url = http://www.guardian.co.uk/equatorialguinea/story/0,15013,1313672,00.html | work =Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-24 | language = ]

Greg Wales, a London-based property dealer, is alleged to have raised $500,000.Equatorial Guinea official sources claim that last November, when the plot was in its early stages, an Old Etonian mercenary, Simon Mann, paid Mr Wales about $8,000. Mr Wales denies any involvement in the coup.

Theresa Whelan, a member of the Bush administration in charge of African affairs at the Pentagon, twice met a London-based businessman, Greg Wales, in Washington before the coup attempt. Mr Wales has been accused of being one of its organisers, but has denied any involvement. A US defence official told Newsweek magazine:

"Mr Wales mentioned in passing _ there might be some trouble brewing in Equatorial Guinea. Specifically, he had heard from some business associates of his that wealthy citizens of the country were planning to flee in case of a crisis."

UK prior knowledge

Britain was given a full outline of the coup plot, including the dates, details of arms shipments and key players, months before the coup was launched.cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title= Revealed: how Britain was told full coup plan | date= | publisher= | url = http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,6903,1361299,00.html | work =Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-22 | language = ] Despite Britain's clear obligations under international law,Fact|date=July 2008 Jack Straw failed to warn the government of Equatorial Guinea.

Until 9 November 2004, cabinet ministers had denied any prior knowledge of the attempted illegal coup.cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title= Equatorial Guinea | date= | publisher= | url =http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/vo041109/text/41109w21.htm#41109w21.html_spnew5 | work =Parliament of the United Kingdom | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-22 | language = ]
Jack Straw and minister for Africa Chris Mullin were however personally told of the plot on Friday 30 January. After receiving news of the coup, Jack Straw ordered a change to evacuation plans for British citizens in Equatorial Guinea.

President Obiang commented on the lack of warning despite admissions of prior knowledge:

"This is particularly surprising in view of the fact that a number of British citizens and residents of the UK appear to be central to the conspiracy to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea."

Jack Straw had told parliament that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office did investigate if there were any British companies involved in the plot after receiving confidential reports, but failed to find any evidence. British officials, and Jack Straw, were forced to apologise to "The Observer" after categorically denying they had prior knowledge of the coup plot.

Spain

President Obiang accused the Spanish of supporting the plot. The allegation explains the coincidental position of two Spanish warships off the coast of Equatorial Guinea, at the time of the arrests of the alleged plotters. Miguel Mifuno, special adviser to Equatorial Guinea's president, accused the Spanish government of funding opposition groups in exile and supporting the coup directly:

"Our intelligence sources say that the warship was going to arrive on the same date that the coup attempt was going to take place - 8 March.....It [the war ships] was already in our territorial waters with 500 soldiers aboard. Meanwhile there was a team of foreign mercenaries already in Equatorial Guinea who knew where we lived. They had plans to kill 50 people and to arrest others."

The Spanish foreign ministry spokeswoman denied the allegations; "There was no ship there, we deny any kind of implication in any attempted coup".cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Spain accused in Malabo coup plot | date= | publisher= | url =http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3812185.stm | work =BBC | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-31 | language = ] However the Spanish foreign minister, Ana Palacio seemed to contradict the spokeswoman's statement; "They weren't on a mission of war, but one of cooperation." cite news | first= | last= | coauthors= | title=Exiled leader in Spain denies any link to coup attempt | date= | publisher= | url =http://www.guardian.co.uk/equatorialguinea/story/0,,1292091,00.html | work =Guardian | pages = | accessdate = 2007-08-31 | language = ]

ee also

*List of coups d'état and coup attempts

References

External links

* [http://www.oraclesyndicate.twoday.net/stories/2534432 The Wonga Coup]
* [http://www.amazon.com/dp/1400097827] Licensed to Kill, Hired Guns in the War on Terror, Robert Young Pelton


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