Interesting he gets called a mercenary but where the plots are ongoing and have powerful backing they get called ‘contractors’, this is very reminiscent of LeCarre’s Mission Song (although that is concerned with the Congo & a NuLabour finger was in the coup), a cloak of respectability, an elite conspiracy discreetly backed by national governments, unseating a tyrant in a country that just so happens to be a huge capital prize. But none of the wealthy originators are in jeopardy –yet-, just Mann taking the fall (a lesson in how the Thatcher family view those who do the labour, even old Etonians)-
The British mercenary Simon Mann was today sentenced to 34 years in prison for plotting to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea. The Eton-educated former SAS officer was sentenced after a trial last month during which it was claimed that a number of western governments knew about the coup plans.
The court also heard that Sir Mark Thatcher, the son of the former British prime minister, was a committed member of the group. Mann was arrested in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2004 with dozens of mercenaries when their private plane landed.
During the trial in Malabo, a contrite Mann claimed he was “not the person I was” after four years in prison. He claimed that Spain and South Africa, with the endorsement of the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, had supported the plot.
By January 2004, two months before the attempted coup was put into action, it was, Mann said, “like an official operation. The governments of Spain and South Africa were giving the green light: ‘You’ve got to go, you’ve got to do it.'”
Senior members of the Equatorial Guinea army, police and cabinet were also implicated, Mann said, and he was given details of President Teodoro Obiang’s daily movements and his health problems.
From the Pentagon in Washington, and from the CIA and the big US oil companies, came tacit approval for regime change, according to Mann.
Thatcher “was not just an investor, he came completely on board and became a part of the management team”, Mann claimed during his trial. He said Thatcher had provided $350,000 (£178,000) in funding for the coup.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has ruled the small west African nation of Equatorial Guinea since a 1979 coup overthrew his uncle. He pockets vast profits from offshore oil drilling.
Equatorial Guinea is Africa’s third-largest oil producer, but the bulk of its population remains very poor. Obiang’s regime is accused of being one of Africa’s worst violators of human rights.
Mann told the court that he took Thatcher to the Chelsea home of Ely Calil, the Lebanese businessman who is alleged by the government of Equatorial Guinea to have been the main financier of the plot. He named the management board as Calil, himself, a London property developer, Thatcher and a Lebanese colleague of Calil who lives in Beirut.
Mann accepted he was doing the job for money – said to be $15m – but he claimed he was sympathetic to the story he was told that oil money was not reaching the people. “I believed it was right.
In previous coverage in The Independent the timing was revealed to be crucial-
In today’s testimony, Mann said the plotters had rushed to try to carry out the coup before March 14, 2004, the date of a general election in Spain which they feared would unseat the centre-right government and deprive them of the Spanish diplomatic backing he said they had been promised.
“Everything was in … a big hurry, because we had this date of March 14, the Spanish election, which was coming closer and closer,” Mann said. Spain’s centre-right government led by Jose Maria Aznar was defeated in the 2004 election by the Socialists.
Mann said Calil had told him the coup plotters had been promised immediate diplomatic recognition by Aznar’s administration if they succeeded in replacing Obiang with Equatorial Guinea opposition figure Severo Moto. Spain had also promised to send a contingent of Civil Guards, according to Calil, Mann said.
Suffice to say a lot of powerful people, corporations and institutions are implicated here as their way of doing business is exposed. But this case has also been used to attack opponents by Obiang, has Mann been truthful, has he been coached to this testimony, his sentence another bargaining chip? Obiang is a complete scumbag (as was the guy -his Uncle- he overthrew who apparently-had 150 alleged coup plotters executed to the sound of a band playing Mary Hopkin’s tune Those Were the Days in a national stadium.) but nevertheless corporations trade with him, so one might suspect the coup was about contractual disagreement rather than a humanitarian impulse. Riggs Bank the US based home of Pinochet’s (a great friend & ally of Maggie Thatcher’s) money handled his money before the blood on it got too messy and can you guess who is chums with him?
So Obiang turned to the Bush Administration and well-connected Washington insiders for help. The United States has been cozying up to Obiang for years—the dictator met in Washington with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in April—because his country is a major oil provider, where ExxonMobil, Marathon, and Amerada Hess have billions of dollars invested.
I recently learned from a well-placed source that, earlier this year, Equatorial Guinea deposited monies at trouble-plagued Independence Federal Savings Bank. Independence opened the account only after it was approached by representatives of the State Department and told that Equatorial Guinea was a friend of the United States and that the bank’s help would be appreciated.
The State Department declined public comment for this story, but two government officials I spoke with confirmed that the Bush Administration had approached Independence on behalf of Equatorial Guinea. They said there was nothing unusual about the request and that the administration has also helped out other controversial African regimes that have had a hard time finding banking help after the Riggs scandal.
JPMorgan Chase had opened four accounts in the name of the “Permanent Mission of Equatorial Guinea.”
Cassidy & Associates, one of several big lobby shops retained by Obiang, provided help sorting out these banking issues. The lead lobbyist for Cassidy, which is being paid more than $1 million annually by Obiang, is Amos Hochstein, a former aide to retired Congressman Sam Gejdenson, a Connecticut Democrat.
A recent report by the London-based NGO Global Witness said that, thanks to oil exports, Equatorial Guinea has the second-highest per capita income in the world ($50,200)—yet it ranks near the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index, with more than half of its people lacking access to potable water. Meanwhile, the report said, American oil companies still refuse to reveal how much money they pay to Obiang’s regime, and the I.M.F. has reported that his government holds more than $700 million worth of oil revenues in two offshore accounts.
So apparently his money is good enough to overcome the erm, ethical concerns of the institutions of global capital, so again the indications are the coup was a business exercise to remove a very corrupt leader and install a better country manager for the corporations feeding in Equatorial Guinea. Although Spain funds Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial in a colonial hangover and Cuba staffs and runs a medical school at Bata the story overall is familiar- a resource rich nation where the people live in poverty as predators domestic and international squabble over the treasure. Acceptance of great inequality fuels that conflict, allows it, gives it the room to thrive.
While oil revenue has filled government coffers, most of the citizens still survive on about $1 a day. Three of four residents suffer malnutrition, but only 1 percent of the budget was spent on health care between 1997 and 2002.
Obiang, his family and members of his government live lavishly. Obiang owns two houses in Potomac, valued at $1.3 million and $2.5 million, property records show. One of his sons, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, owns a $6.9 million house in Los Angeles.