|Born||26 June 1952|
Aldershot, England, UK
|Years of service||1972 - 1985|
1991 - 1994
22 Special Air Service
|Battles/wars||1991 Gulf War|
Working for private military companies:
Sierra Leone Civil War
2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d'état attempt
|Relations||George Mann (father) |
Frank Mann (grandfather)
|Other work||Has worked for a number of private military corporations including Sandline International|
Simon Francis Mann (born 26 June 1952) is a British former Army officer and mercenary. He served part of a 34-year prison sentence in Equatorial Guinea for his role in a failed coup d'état in 2004, before receiving a presidential pardon on humanitarian grounds on 2 November 2009.
Mann was extradited from Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea on 1 February 2008, having been accused of planning a coup d'état to overthrow the government by leading a mercenary force into the capital Malabo in an effort to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Charges in South Africa of aiding a coup in a foreign country were dropped on 23 February 2007, but the charges remained in Equatorial Guinea, where he had been convicted in absentia in November 2004. He lost an extradition hearing to Equatorial Guinea after serving three years of a four-year prison sentence in Zimbabwe for the same crimes and being released early on good behaviour.
Upon Mann's arrival in Equatorial Guinea for his trial in Malabo, public Prosecutor Jose Olo Obono said that Mann would face three charges - crimes against the head of state, crimes against the government, and crimes against the peace and independence of the state. On 7 July 2008, he was sentenced to 34 years and four months in prison by a Malabo court. He was released on 2 November 2009, on humanitarian grounds.
Simon Mann's father, George, captained the England cricket team in the late 1940s and was an heir to a stake in the Watney Mann brewing empire that closed in 1979, having been acquired by Grand Metropolitan (which, in 1997, became Diageo plc on its merger with Guinness). His mother is South African.
After leaving Eton College, Mann trained to be an officer at Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Scots Guards on 16 December 1972. By 1976 he held the rank of Lieutenant. He later became a member of the SAS and served in Cyprus, Germany, Norway and Northern Ireland before leaving the forces in 1985. He was re-called to action from the reserves for the Gulf War.
Mann then entered the field of computer security; however, his interest in this industry lapsed when he returned from his service in the Gulf and he entered the oil industry to work with Tony Buckingham. Buckingham also had a military background and had been a diver in the North Sea oil industry before joining a Canadian oil firm. In 1993, UNITA rebels in Angola seized the port of Soyo, and closed its oil installations. The Angolan government under Jose Eduardo dos Santos sought mercenaries to seize back the port and asked for assistance from Buckingham who had by now formed his own company.
Mann went on to establish Sandline International with fellow ex-Scots Guards Colonel Tim Spicer in 1996. The company operated mostly in Angola and Sierra Leone, but in 1997 Sandline received a commission from the government of Papua New Guinea to suppress a rebellion on the island of Bougainville and the company came to international prominence, but received much negative publicity following the Sandline affair. Sandline International announced the closure of the company's operations on 16 April 2004. In an interview on the Today Programme, Mann indicated that the operations in Angola had netted more than £10,000,000.
On 7 March 2004, Mann and 69 others were arrested in Zimbabwe when their Boeing 727 was seized by security forces during a stop-off at Harare's airport to be loaded with £100,000 worth of weapons and equipment. The men were charged with violating the country's immigration, firearms and security laws and later accused of engaging in an attempt to stage a coup d'état in Equatorial Guinea. Meanwhile, eight suspected mercenaries, one of whom later died in prison, were detained in Equatorial Guinea in connection with the alleged plot. Mann and the others claimed that they were not on their way to Equatorial Guinea but were in fact flying to the Democratic Republic of Congo to provide security for diamond mines. Mann and his colleagues were put on trial in Zimbabwe, and, on 27 August, Mann was found guilty of attempting to buy arms for an alleged coup plot and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. 66 of the others were acquitted.
On 25 August 2004, Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was arrested at his home in Cape Town, South Africa. He eventually pleaded guilty (under a plea bargain) to negligently supplying financial assistance for the plot. The 14 men in the mercenary advance guard that were caught in Equatorial Guinea were sentenced to jail for 34 years.
Among the advance guard was Nick du Toit who claimed that he had been introduced to Thatcher by Mann. Investigations later revealed in Mann's holdings' financial records that large transfers of money were made to du Toit, as well as approximately US$2 million coming in from an unknown and untraceable source. On 10 September Mann was sentenced to seven years in jail. His compatriots received one-year sentences for violating immigration laws and their two pilots got 16 months. The group's Boeing 727 was seized, as well as the US$180,000 that was found on board the plane.
On 23 February 2007, charges were dropped against Mann and the other alleged conspirators in South Africa. Mann remained in Zimbabwe, where he was convicted of charges from the same incident. On 2 May 2007 a Zimbabwe court ruled that Mann should be extradited to Equatorial Guinea to face charges, although the Zimbabweans promised that he would not face the death penalty. His extradition was described as the "oil for Mann" deal, in reference to the large amounts of oil that Mugabe has managed to secure from Equatorial Guinea. The Black Beach prison in Equatorial Guinea, where Mann was sent, is notorious for its bad conditions. Mann lost his last appeal against the decision to extradite him. In a last-ditch effort on 30 January 2008, Mann tried to appeal the judgment to the Zimbabwean Supreme Court. The following day, Mann was deported to Equatorial Guinea in secret, leading to claims by his lawyers that the extradition was hastened to defeat the possibility of appeal to the Supreme Court.
Concern for Mann's plight was raised in the UK Parliament in the year of his arrest in Zimbabwe by three Conservative Members of Parliament. During the two years after the government of Equatorial Guinea applied for his extradition, three further Conservative Party MPs submitted written questions.
The sudden extradition drew the greatest response. Julian Lewis said in Parliament:
|"||My constituent, Mr Simon Mann, has completed his jail sentence in Zimbabwe but has been transferred by the Mugabe regime to a potentially terrible fate in Equatorial Guinea, despite the fact that his appeals processes have not been completed and despite the assurances given to the British ambassador to Zimbabwe that would not happen. May we have a statement as soon as possible on the Floor of the House from the Foreign Secretary about what action is going to be taken? Quiet diplomacy has failed and we now have to save Mr Mann, whatever he has or has not done, from torture and a horrible death in a terrible situation.||"|
There was a request that the United States administration, which had access to Simon Mann in Black Beach Prison on 6 February 2008, exert its influence "to secure [his] safe return". UK officials were granted access to him on 12 February 2008. Labour and other parties expressed little concern about Mann or the others. The only non-Conservative Party MP to submit a question in Parliament about him was Vince Cable, although an Early Day Motion about his treatment in prison received some cross-party support.
On 8 March 2008, Channel 4 in the UK won a legal battle to broadcast an interview with Mann in which he named British political figures, including Ministers, alleged to have given tacit approval to the coup plot. In testimony he spoke frankly about the events leading to the botched attempt to topple Equatorial Guinea's president.
Despite their charges being unrelated, Mann was tried alongside six Progress Party of Equatorial Guinea activists being held on weapons charges, including opposition leader Severo Moto's former secretary Gerardo Angüe Mangue. On 7 July 2008, Mann was sentenced by an Equatoguinean court to more than 34 years in prison.
in January 2005 Thatcher pled guilty in South Africa, after a plea bargain, to "unwittingly" abetting the coup. He was fined 3 million rand (£266,000), given a suspended four-year jail term, and obliged to leave South Africa, his home for a decade.