Simon Mann may be moved to UK jail

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Simon Mann may be moved to UK jail

Post by Guest on Sun 16 Mar 2008, 5:04 pm

Simon Mann, the former SAS officer who led the 2004 “wonga coup” – a botched attempt to overthrow the dictator of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea – could be allowed to serve his prison sentence in Britain instead of the infamous Black Beach jail.

Government sources in the tiny west African state said President Teodoro Obiang Nguema raised the possibility of Mann’s transfer with diplomats at a recent meeting in the capital, Malabo. He told them he wanted better relations with Britain and suggested his foreign minister should visit London to discuss the case.

Obiang was willing to consider allowing Mann to be transferred to prison in Britain once the 55-year-old soldier of fortune has been tried and sentenced by a special court in Malabo. Such a move would be welcomed by Mann’s family and friends. Obiang’s government has been described by human rights groups as among the worst abusers in Africa.

Obiang linked Mann’s fate to bringing Ely Calil to justice. The Lebanese oil tycoon, who is based in London and Paris, has previously been accused of being one of the principal financiers of the coup but has always denied it.

Last week in a television interview from prison, Mann publicly admitted his own involvement and identified Calil as the “main man” behind the attempt to topple Obiang.

If somebody wanted to do him a favour they “could put a pair of handcuffs on Calil and chuck him on an aeroplane” to Malabo, he said. Calil responded with a statement sympathising with Mann’s predicament, but added: “I confirm that I had no involvement in or responsibility for the alleged coup.” Mann also confirmed that Mark Thatcher had been “part of the team”. Thatcher was later convicted of his role in the plot and fined in South Africa.

Obiang believes that Calil, who was brought up in Nigeria and made his fortune trading in oil, was involved in several attempted coups against the secretive oil-rich dictatorship. Sources said Obiang wanted Britain to help bring him to justice and to pay damages.

New questions were raised this weekend about the relationship of the South African intelligence community with the plotters.

Billy Masetlha, an ally of South Africa’s presidential frontrunner Jacob Zuma, allegedly received €252,000 (£194,000) in a Swiss bank account in January 2004 to lobby for governmental support for Mann, according to a document seen by The Sunday Times. This weekend Masetlha dismissed the allegations as “complete rubbish”.

Provided By: Timesonline - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3559287.ece

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