/ 6 November 2009

Equatorial Guinea coup plotters ‘back in SA’

The South African mercenaries jailed for their part in an Equatorial Guinea coup plot have arrived home, a security expert said on Friday.

The men were released on Tuesday after being pardoned by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

”They are back in the country,” said Henri Boshoff of the Institute for Security Studies.

”I don’t know where, and how; I just know they’re back.”

He said the men were probably flown in on Thursday night, and one could ”make assumptions” about how this happened.

He said the Special Forces League, a private South African organisation that looks after the interests of veterans, had been arranging transport for the men.

However, the league was then told by the Department of International Relations that it would organise the repatriation.

”Clearly the department made some arrangement,” Boshoff said. ”It’s all very quiet. Nobody knows anything, but they are back.”

Department spokesperson Nomfanelo Kota told the South African Press Association on Friday afternoon: ”I’ve not been advised that they’ve arrived.”

An embassy official in Malabo did not want to be quoted and referred further queries to Kota.

Briton Simon Mann and South Africans Nick du Toit, George Alerson, Sergio Cardoso and Jose Sundays were convicted in a trial that implicated Mark Thatcher, the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, as the financier of a 2004 plot to overthrow the oil-rich Equatorial Guinea and oust long-serving Nguema.

Mann has already returned to the United Kingdom.

The South African Department of Justice said earlier this week that the men would not face charges relating to their misadventure when they returned. — Sapa