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AFRICA: Thatcher Feels Like a 'Corpse in a River'

Sir Mark Thatcher said his life had been "destroyed" by charges that he helped finance a failed African coup. The son of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher said he felt like a "corpse floating in the river" in the face of the case against him.

by Lech Mintowt-czyz And Luke LeitchEvening Standard
November 24th, 2004

Sir Mark Thatcher today told how his life had been "destroyed" by charges that he helped finance a failed African coup. The son of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher said he felt like a "corpse floating in the river" in the face of the case against him.

Should the charges be proven, he faces jail in South Africa and the possibility of extradition to face further accusations from the government of Equatorial Guinea, the target of the plot.

Thatcher, 51, who denies any knowledge of the coup plans, is on bail and barred from leaving South Africa as he awaits developments in the court process.

In his first interview since he was arrested by South African police in August, he told Vanity Fair: "I will never be able to do business again. Who will deal with me? Thank God my father is not alive to see this."

He added that he felt "like a corpse that's going down the Colorado River and there is nothing I can do about it".

He speaks to his mother twice a week on the phone and says friends have told him he was "born guilty".

Thatcher was arrested following the collapse of an attempt to topple the leader of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. A Boeing 727 jet impounded at Harare airport in March was found to contain 70 mercenaries with 61 AK-47 assault rif les, 75,000 rounds of ammunition, 150 grenades, 70 machineguns and 1,000 rocket-propelled grenades.

Eton-educated mercenary Simon Mann, a personal friend of Thatcher, was among those arrested. Mann has since been jailed by a Zimbabwean court for seven years for trying to buy weapons.

Thatcher was held after evidence about his alleged role in a coup plot was given to police by business partner Crause Steyl.

Speaking to Standard reporters investigating the coup, Mr Steyl claimed Thatcher's role had been to provide helicopters for the coup. He said Thatcher knew all about the plot and had invested about ?160,000, hoping to make a huge profit

once the new regime was installed in Equatorial Guinea. Thatcher says he thought the money was to set up an air ambulance.

A Standard investigation revealed telephone records showing a flurry of calls between individuals named by the authorities in Equatorial Guinea as key conspirators. Five calls were made between Greg Wales - who has allegedly acknowledged his own involvement - and Thatcher in the days after Mann's arrest.

Last week, prosecutors in Equatorial Guinea formally charged Thatcher in his absence with helping to finance the coup by making payments to Mann. An application to extradite him to Equatorial Guinea is expected in the coming months.





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