Freed mercenary lands back in the UK

Author: By Ellen Branagh, Press Association

The Old Etonian and ex-SAS soldier, who was pardoned earlier this week after
being jailed over a bungled coup in Equatorial Guinea, touched down in a
private jet at Luton Airport.

Mann, who could now face questioning by British police, did not speak directly
to waiting journalists but issued a statement saying he was looking forward
to meeting his son Arthur, who was born after he left the UK.

In his statement, read for him by spokesman Ian Monk, Mann said: “This is
the most wonderful homecoming I could ever have imagined.

“There hasn’t been a moment during the last five and a half years when I
have not dreamt of one day being back in Britain with my family.

“I’m especially looking forward to meeting my son Arthur, who was born a
few months after I left the country and whom consequently I have never seen.

“I am hugely grateful to President Mbasogo for releasing me.

“It’s the best early Christmas present my family and I could ever have

“As I know you will understand I have been away for five and a half tough
years, much of it spent in solitary confinement.

“I now need time to adjust and so I would ask that you respect my privacy
and that of my family during this period.”

Scotland Yard counter terrorism detectives are preparing to question Mann, who
was freed after serving 15 months of a 34-year sentence in the oil-rich West
African state.

Serious questions remain over the 2004 plot to topple Equatorial Guinea’s
government and install opposition leader Severo Moto.

The plan collapsed when Mann and a team of up to 70 mercenaries were held on a
airport runway in Harare, Zimbabwe, in March 2004.

Mann, 57, claimed during his trial that several other prominent figures helped
to organise and finance the plot in London.

He told the court Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former prime minister Baroness
Thatcher, was “part of the management team”.

Sir Mark was given a suspended sentence in South Africa in relation to funding
the operation.

He has always denied any knowledge that a coup was being plotted and issued a
statement yesterday welcoming news of Mann’s release.

Lebanese-born London businessman Ely Calil has also been implicated in the
plot. He too denies any wrongdoing.

South African arms dealer Nick Du Toit was sentenced to 34 years in prison as
a result of the case.

Four other men – Mr du Toit, Sergio Cardoso, Jose Domingos and George Alerson
– were also granted pardons for their part in the plot.

British detectives visited Mann three times last year while he was in the
country’s notorious Black Beach prison.

His former associates could be questioned by police about the alleged coup
attempt if he repeats the allegations.

Mann spent his first night of freedom in a hotel last night after being
suddenly pardoned by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “We can confirm we are investigating
whether any offences may have been disclosed in this country.

“We are aware of developments but are not prepared to discuss them further. We
are liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service. Inquiries continue. The
Counter Terrorism Command are investigating.”

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