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CPS to decide on Mark Thatcher "wonga coup" charges Print
By Mark Hollingsworth and Ian Gallagher
17th January 2009

Scotland Yard detectives investigating the failed 'wonga' coup in Equatorial Guinea have sent a file on the case to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Officials are now studying the documents, said to contain a lengthy affidavit from British mercenary Simon Mann, jailed for his part in the 2004 plot to overthrow the oil-rich nation's government.

They will then decide whether to charge businessmen Ely Calil and Sir Mark Thatcher, who Mann claims played a key role in orchestrating the abortive plot.

Mann's testimony is understood to outline the alleged roles played by London-based oil tycoon Mr Calil and the former Prime Minister's son.

A CPS spokeswoman confirmed yesterday it was 'liaising' with officers from the Metropolitan Police's elite SO15 counter-terrorism command.

It marks a significant development in a complex affair that many observers believe has yet to yield all its secrets.

The SO15 team is seeking to establish whether, as Equatorial Guinea alleges, the coup was planned and financed from London, which would be an offence under the Terrorism Act 2002.

Detectives have spent a total of 24 days gathering evidence in West Africa and have already questioned Mr Calil under caution.

Sir Mark was accused at Mann's trial of being part of the 'management team' that orchestrated the plot - an allegation he denies.
Simon Mann

He was arrested in South Africa after allegedly investing £175,000 to buy a helicopter to be used in the operation but has said he thought he was funding an air ambulance service.

He was freed after pleading guilty to breaking anti-mercenary laws and paid a £220,000 fine.

In an interview last July, Mr Calil admitted he supported regime change in Equatorial Guinea and financed plans by its exiled president Severo Moto to return to the country but he added: 'I am not a coup planner.'

The Scotland Yard inquiry has been notable for its vigour. After lobbying from Equatorial Guinea, the Foreign Office felt obliged to formally ask police to investigate.

The initial evidence was based partly on the claim by Mann that some of the planning meetings for the coup took place in London.

He said, for instance, that he had lunch with Sir Mark and Mr Calil at the Lebanese tycoon's £25million house in Chelsea, West London, in May 2003, and discussed the coup.

As Sir Mark, Mann and Mr Calil are all UK citizens, the police had a legal basis to work on.

Sources close to the case said the Foreign Office encouraged the police because they were embarrassed by then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's 2004 admission that he knew about the coup plot before it happened.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday last year, Equatorial Guinea's president Teodoro Obiang said that if Mr Calil and Sir Mark were brought to book, then he would release Mann from prison to see out his 34-year sentence in a British jail.
 
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