Mark Thatcher bankrolled coup

2005-01-12 23:17

London - Sir Mark Thatcher is to plead guilty to bankrolling an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea, say reports.

Sky News says he is expected to be given a five year suspended sentence and a £300 000 fine by a court in South Africa.

It is understood Sir Mark will then be allowed to leave the country, where he has effectively been under house arrest in Cape Town.

Thatcher is expected in court in Cape Town on Thursday.

Sipho Ngwema, spokesperson for the national prosecuting authority, refused to disclose the reason for the appearance, and Thatcher's lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.

Thatcher, the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was not previously expected back in court until February 18.

Thatcher, who has lived in South Africa since 1995, was arrested at his Cape Town home on August 25 and charged with violating the country's anti-mercenary laws.

He also faces charges in Equatorial Guinea and officials there have said they will seek Thatcher's extradition from South Africa.

Equatorial Guinea alleges Thatcher and other mainly British financiers worked with the tiny country's opposition figures, scores of African mercenaries and six Armenian pilots in a takeover attempt foiled in March.

Thatcher maintains he played no part in the alleged conspiracy.

A high court in South Africa ordered Thatcher to answer questions submitted by Equatorial Guinea under oath in November, but that appearance was postponed until February 18 to give his lawyers a chance to appeal the ruling.

Thatcher's trial on charges of helping to finance the alleged plot was postponed until April 8 for further investigation.