Thatcher and the Mercenaries

Wouldn’t you know it—the Equatorial Guinea mercenary story got really interesting when I was out of town and unable to stay on top of it. It’s hitting plenty of media outlets now, but in case you’ve missed it, here’s the short version.

The trial is on in Zimbabwe, where Simon Mann has pleaded guilty to weapons-buying charges, but still insists that he and his men were bound for the DR of Congo, not to overthrow President Obiang’s government in Equatorial Guinea. EQ wants the mercenaries extradited there, but Zimbabwe has thus far declined, probably (I’m speculating here) due to pressure from South Africa, which doesn’t want to see its citizens face the death penalty, especially under a legendarily shady regime.

But the juicy bit is that Mark Thatcher, the son of Margaret Thatcher, has been arrested in South Africa on suspicions of funding or being otherwise related to the coup plot. He’s a close friend of Simon Mann, and has a history of such ill-advised ventures—this Time article gives a good summary of the situation. Naturally, EQ wants him extradited as well, but that’s even less likely than seeing the mercenaries extradited.

The biggest upshot of this is the added media attention of having someone with a relatively high profile involved—plus the possibility of finding out who the ultimate backers of the coup plot were. Exiled opposition leader Severo Moto is obviously involved, but it’s not like he had money himself, so who provided the money—presumably expecting a share of interest in EQ’s vast untapped oil reserves as a return on their investment? Kathryn Cramer has no shortage of speculation, culminating with:

So who was going to pay off the investors? I think the answer lies in Thatcher’s intended sanctuary: Dallas, Texas.

Connecting the dots from Simon Mann’s mercenary band to Texas oil interests definitely counts as wild, near-conspiracy-theory level speculation, though it’s disturbingly in line with the circumstantial evidence. Who knows how it will turn out, but it remains a story to watch.