News and Information
Thatcher 'planned to leave home'
|August 26, 2004
| Mark Thatcher was "planning to leave" South Africa before his arrest, authorities in the country say.
Police say there is "credible evidence" Sir Mark, who is under house arrest, helped finance an alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea.
Makhosini Nkosi, National Prosecuting Authority spokesman, said Sir Mark's house was on the market.
Sir Mark, son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, says he is innocent of all charges.
Appearing in court on Wednesday, the 51-year-old was bailed to reappear on 25 November and ordered to pay a two million Rand (£165,000) bail bond.
He is accused of violating laws banning South African residents from taking part in foreign military action.
Sir Mark was arrested on Wednesday at his home in the Cape Town suburb of Constantia.
Sipho Ngwema, a spokesman for the South African police anti-fraud unit known as the Scorpions, said Sir Mark was "planning to leave the country for good" and had enrolled his children in American schools.
And Makhosini Nkosi, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, said: "It does appear that he was planning to leave the country.
"The house was on the market, he had disposed of some of the cars, and there were suitcases around the house which indicated they were planning to leave.
"He did confirm he was planning to relocate to Texas."
But one of Sir Mark's legal team, Phillip Higgo, said he had no plans to leave South Africa and had been aware of the investigation before returning to the country from a US business trip.
Sir Mark, whose wife is from Texas, moved to Cape Town from the United States in the late 1990s but frequently travels between the two.
Investigators were said to be examining his records and computers for information about the alleged plot.
Mr Ngwema told BBC's Newsnight police had "credible evidence" of Sir Mark's involvement.
I have no involvement in an alleged coup in Equatorial Guinea and I reject all suggestions to the contrary
Sir Mark Thatcher
Maggie and her prodigal son
"We allege he is one of the financiers of the coup to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea and we have received credible evidence that he has assisted financially in that regard," he said.
"Anyone who is using this country as a springboard for violence and disorder, we are going to deal with those persons quite strongly," he added.
The act specified a fine or imprisonment for conviction, but not the severity, which is left up to the presiding officer, Mr Ngwema said.
Sir Mark said in a statement: "I am innocent of all charges made against me. I have been and am cooperating fully with the authorities in order to resolve the matter.
"I have no involvement in an alleged coup in Equatorial Guinea and I reject all suggestions to the contrary."
Speaking outside the court, Sir Mark's lawyer, Peter Hodes, said he had been held on suspicion of providing financing for a helicopter linked to the coup plot, and intended to plead not guilty.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Baroness Thatcher said the former prime minister was on holiday in the United States and had not yet been contacted.
Charles Moore, her official biographer, described Sir Mark as a "very devoted son" who is extremely close to his mother.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he added that the former prime minister is very "protective" of her son and is likely to find news of the arrest "extremely distressing".
The alleged plot to overthrow the president of Equatorial Guinea has sparked dozens of arrests across Africa.
The alleged plot leader, former British SAS captain Simon Mann, an old Etonian turned leading African mercenary, has admitted trying to procure dangerous weapons - a charge which carries a possible 10-year jail sentence.
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