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Thatcher Answers Questions About Botched Equatorial Guinea Coup

Briton Mark Thatcher, the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, appeared in a South African court Friday to answer questions in connection with the failed coup in Equatorial Guinea last year. Thatcher acknowledged knowing several of the people involved in the coup plot.

Thatcher told the court in Cape Town that he knows eight of the men convicted either in Equatorial Guinea or Zimbabwe on charges relating to the plot, but said his ties with them were social in nature.

Thatcher told the court he was good friends with coup leader Simon Mann, whom he last met in Johannesburg a month before the attempted coup. They met, he said, to toast his wife, who was pregnant at the time. He said he had discussed Equatorial Guinea on two occasions with Mann but that the discussions related to West Africa in general and did not include the coup plot. He said a meeting with another plotter was about cigars.

Thatcher acknowledged paying a guarantee of $275,000 for a helicopter which subsequently was flown to Namibia for three weeks before being returned to South Africa. It was in connection with this payment that Thatcher last month pleaded guilty in a separate Cape Town court to violating South Africa's anti-mercenary laws and being "unwittingly" involved in the plot.

Thatcher was answering questions sent to the court by Equatorial Guinea last year, in connection with the now-concluded trial there. He agreed, as part of his plea-agreement with South African prosecutors, to continue to cooperate in their investigations of the plot.

Thatcher says he will continue to reside in Cape Town even though his home in the ultra-wealthy suburb of Constantia has now been sold - some reports say for $2.6 million. He says he is looking for a new home in the city. Thatcher's wife is American but he denied he is seeking to relocate to the United States. There have been reports his conviction in South Africa has made him ineligible for a United States visa.