Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mark Thatcher & Simon Mann's African Coup

The Scheme Goes Bad

Mann negotiated through intermediaries for the purchase of weapons from the Zimbabwe Defense Industries. The arms were to be delivered to Mann in February 2004 at a remote airstrip in the Congo. By one news account his leased jet broke down. By another, he arrived for the pickup, but the arms did not.

In any case, the arms delivery plan shifted to Zimbabwe two weeks later, but Mann was double-crossed and arrested, and du Toit and 14 others on the "advance team" were arrested in Equatorial Guinea.

Nick du Toit
Nick du Toit

Newspapers reported that Severo Moto, the exiled opposition leader, flew by turboprop helicopter from Spain to Mali on the eve of the coup. He was to have landed in the country 30 minutes after the mercenaries. The band planned to seize President Obiang from bed at 3 a.m. and spirit him away Spain — if he was not killed in the coup.

After the plot was foiled President Obiang went on television to accuse Moto, Calil, and British and American intelligence agencies of being behind the plan. Zimbabwean government sources quoted in the African press said British, U.S. and Spanish intelligence agencies were "involved," although no further explanation was given.

Obiang complained that the United States had been tipped off about the coup attempt by South African authorities but had failed to warn him, despite his open business relationship with American energy barons.

Moto, like virtually everyone else implicated in the plot, denied all.

"I have absolutely nothing to do with this story," Moto said. He said Obiang had linked him to the coup "to tarnish my political career." He denied media reports that he had met with Spanish officials in advance of the coup to prepare for normalized relations with Equatorial Guinea's old colonial ruler.

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