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There was certainly no honour amongst thieves during the trial of Simon Mann who was sentenced to 34-years imprisonment for his part in the 2004 failed coup attempt to topple the government of Teodoro Obiang Nguema in Equatorial Guinea.

The swashbuckling bravado and devil-may-care attitude often attributed to these adventure-seeking soldiers of fortune had deserted the former British SAS officer turned mercenary as the reality of spending possibly the rest of his life in the confines of a filthy, insect-infested African prison became a reality.

The trial and its concluding verdict has received surprisingly little attention in the mainstream media: surprising because Simon Mann’s testimony implicated no lesser characters than Lord Jeffrey Archer, Sir Mark Thatcher (son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) and Britain-based Oil Tycoon Ely Calil.

One might have expected this story to dominate the broadsheets and airwaves and solicit the interest of the media hounds; alas, there were no C4 ‘Dispatches’ and no BBC ‘Panorama’; instead we were given a few news reports on the Simon Mann verdict and a couple of columns in the broadsheets buried next to the sports and the weather.

Simon Mann has been portrayed in the British media as simply a naïve, spoilt public schoolboy who bit off one adventure more than he could chew. Nowhere in the narrative of this story do we hear critical, disparaging remarks against the coup plotters, no investigative journalism into the role of Sir Mark Thatcher, and no serious probing of Simon Mann’s assertions that Ely Calil was the financier and intellectual conspirator behind the coup.

What advance knowledge did the British government have about the coup and did British intelligence give it’s tacit approval? Johann Smith, a former Commander in the South African Special Forces, tipped off British and American intelligence as early as December 2003, whilst the foiled coup attempt was not scheduled until March, 2004. Johann Smith later commented, “I was continuing to work in Equatorial Guinea with government, it was not in my interest that there be a coup d'etat...I therefore wanted to warn the Equatorial Guinea authorities. I also considered it my duty to warn the authorities in the US and England because some of their nationals might be killed.”

There is much to be said about the manner in which the British media, government, and intelligence community have suppressed this story. If the British media cared to connect the dots, they would find a catalogue of these criminal interventions, whereby mercenaries - ‘private security companies’ (with high level access and contacts within Western Governments and intelligence communities) - have been hired as private armies, to fight wars and destabilize states. Let’s not forget the pals of Simon Mann, like Tim Spicer, who was arrested in 1997 in Papua New Guinea and released upon the intervention of the British government after he had signed a $36 million deal to intervene in the Bougainville conflict. Tim Spicer was later involved in the illegal importation of arms to Sierra Leone in violation of a United Nations arms embargo; yet today he is the Chief Executive of Aegis Defence Services, which won a £160 million contract to provide close protection to Coalition and Iraqi officials and has the second largest military force in Iraq with some 20,000+ private soldiers.

There is much more to Simon Mann and the Equatorial Guinea coup than meets the eye. The figures lurking in the shadows of this episode are powerful and influential and have demonstrated their ability to keep the media onside. Wherever these adventurous former public schoolboys may roam, you can be assured that the dirty tentacles of the 'Establishment' are not far behind.

Ishmahil Blagrove, Jr.
Editor, riceNpeas.com

1st July 2008
EDITORIAL: The Worst Coup in History