Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mark Thatcher & Simon Mann's African Coup

Coup Plot Revealed

It was Obiang's son who indirectly prompted the coup attempt, according to accounts in the British press.

For more than three years, Obiang has been undergoing treatment for cancer, and some say his health is tenuous. Teodorin, his likely successor, is viewed as unstable. This might have led energy investors to worry that deals cut with President Obiang might not survive the regime change.

Severo Moto Nsa
Severo Moto Nsa

The Observer, a British newspaper, gave this account of the coup plot:

"The seed was planted in January 2003 in a series of meetings in London between Ely Calil, a Lebanese-born London oil dealer; and Simon Mann, a former British special forces officer who carved out a career as an African mercenary.

"Calil had cultivated a relationship with Severo Moto Nsa, a prominent opponent of President Obiang and president of the Guinean government-in-exile in Madrid."

The Observer said Moto had agreed to replace Obiang after the coup. Calil's motivation, according to news accounts, was a promise of sweetheart oil concessions with the new government.

In November 2003, Mann signed a $5 million contract with a group of Lebanese investors for "mining, fishing, aviation and commercial security projects in West Africa." The Observer said the investors were acting as a front for Calil, and the coup was the true intent of the agreement.

Mann, in turn, signed a $2 million deal with Nick du Toit, 48, a former South African special forces commander with links to mercenaries and arms dealers, for "unspecified projects," according to the Observer. Du Toit would later admit that he recruited the team of mercenaries, many of them former members of South African security forces from the apartheid era.

Du Toit is believed to have traveled to Equatorial Guinea in late 2003 and early 2004 to pay off military and government officials whom he believed would allow ready access to Obiang on the day of the coup.

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