Monday, November 23, 2015

Putting the "Wonga Coup" Investors on Trial

The Daily Mail reports that Sir Mark Thatcher, son of the late Margaret Thatcher, is to be the subject of a private prosecution in the United Kingdom for his role in the 2004 coup plot against Equatorial Guinea's dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Simon Mann, who was captured in Zimbabwe while en route to Equatorial Guinea with sixty mercenaries, will be the prosecution's star witness.

Private prosecutions, possible in some common law systems, involve allegations of criminal conduct brought by an individual or organization rather than the public prosecutor. In some cases (including this case involving the failed "Wonga Coup"), evidence may be developed by private investigators. Obiang has engaged a prominent British human rights attorney, Jason McCue, to present the case. (McCue's profile on states, "Jason McCue litigates against terrorists, dictators and others who seem above the law, using the legal and judicial system in innovative ways.")

Mann served four years in a Zimbabwean prison before being turned over to Equatorial Guinea for trial. He was convicted and sentenced to a 32-year prison sentence but released after a year and a half. He maintained at his trial and in a memoir published after his return to the United Kingdom that he was the front man for a group of British investors including Thatcher and Ely Calil. Obiang has long been suspected of making a deal with Mann for his release from prison in the expectation that Mann would help him make the case that the British, Spanish, and U.S. governments were behind the coup plot.