Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mark Thatcher & Simon Mann's African Coup

Law Bans "War Dogs"

The note prompted South African authorities to launch an investigation of Mark Thatcher, a neighbor of Mann in Constantia, an exclusive suburb of Cape Town. Five months later, on August 25, Thatcher was roused from bed at 3 a.m. and arrested on charges that he helped fund the coup plot.

He apparently procured the turboprop helicopter used to ferry opposition leader Moto from Spain to Mali.

Thatcher was charged under a new South African law designed to inhibit meddling in African affairs by paid mercenaries — the so-called "dogs of war" who have helped roil politics on the continent for a century or more. South Africa's Foreign Military Assistance Act bans residents of the country from participating in any foreign military action.

Thatcher admitted that he provided the helicopter but claimed it was a legitimate business transaction unrelated to the coup. A few days after the arrest, Thatcher's American wife and two children, ages 11 and 15, were allowed to return to her hometown of Dallas.

He was freed on $300,000 bail, paid by his mother. While awaiting trial, he surrendered his passport and was required to check in each day with police officials.

He was banned from going near any airport because authorities allege he was preparing to flee South Africa for Dallas at the time of his arrest. He had sold four luxury SUVs, had listed his $3.3 million mansion for sale and literally had his bags packed when arrested, according to police.

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