The son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, an ex-race car driver whose business career has been dogged by accusations of questionable arms deals and shady ventures, was charged Wednesday with helping finance a foiled coup plot in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.
"We have evidence, credible evidence, and information that he was involved in the attempted coup," said Sipho Ngwema, a police spokesman. "We refuse that South Africa be a springboard for coups in Africa and elsewhere."
Authorities in several African nations announced in March that they had foiled an attempt to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, who is widely accused of torture and other abuses while ruling a nation that has become the continent's third-biggest oil producer, reports ABC News.
According to Channel News Asia, "I am innocent of all charges made against me. I have been and am cooperating fully with the authorities in order to resolve the matter," the 51-year-old millionaire businessman said in a statement released by his spokesman Lord Bell.
"I have no involvement in an alleged coup in Equatorial Guinea and I reject all suggestions to the contrary."
Thatcher appeared in a South African court Wednesday after investigators raided his home in the Cape Town suburb of Constantia, armed with an arrest warrant for the British national under South Africa's Foreign Military Assistance Act banning mercenary activities.
He was charged with bankrolling a coup plot in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea that led to the arrest of dozens of suspected mercenaries five months ago.
The case has been postponed to Nov. 25 for further investigation, said a report of the South African Press Association (SAPA).
Eighteen mercenaries, including eight South Africans, six Armenians and four Equatorial-Guineans, were currently on trial at Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea, for the alleged coup attemptin March to topple President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
The alleged putsch mastermind, South African Nick du Toit, faces the death penalty and the others face lengthy terms of imprisonment.
Another 70 men are on trial in Zimbabwe for offensesrelated to the alleged coup bid. British media in July linked Mark Thatcher with the leader of that group, Simon Mann.
The arrest comes on the same day as a visit to Cape Town by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and four ministerial colleagues.
Straw was in the city for bilateral talks with his South African counterpart Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Britain's African agenda and to help ease what was said to be strained relations between the two countries.
Up to now Straw kept mum on the arrest of Thatcher. British High Commission spokesman Nick Sheppard said earlier that the arrest would not have an impact on Straw's visit, informs Xinhua.
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