Simon Mann

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Simon Mann
Simon Mann (6357724617).jpg
Born (1952-06-26) 26 June 1952 (age 68)
Aldershot, England, UK
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1972 - 1985
1991 - 1994
Service number494441
UnitScots Guards
22 Special Air Service
Battles/warsThe Troubles
1991 Gulf War
Working as a mercenary:
Bougainville Uprising
Sierra Leone Civil War
Equatorial Guinea Coup d'État
RelationsGeorge Mann (father)
Frank Mann (grandfather)
Other workCo-founded a number of private military corporations including Sandline International and Executive Outcomes

Simon Francis Mann (born 26 June 1952) is a British former Army officer and mercenary.

Mann trained to be an officer at Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Scots Guards, he later became a member of the SAS. On leaving the military, he co-founded the private military company, Executive Outcomes in 1993[1] and then co-founded Sandline International with fellow ex-Scots Guards Colonel Tim Spicer in 1996. Sandline operated mostly in Angola and Sierra Leone, but a contract with the government of Papua New Guinea attracted a significant amount of negative publicity in what became known as the Sandline affair.

On 7 March 2004, Mann is alleged to have led the 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d'état attempt. He was arrested by Zimbabwean police in Harare airport[2][3] along with 64 other mercenaries.[4][5] He eventually served three years of a four-year prison sentence in Zimbabwe,[6] and less than two years of a 34 years and four months sentence in Equatorial Guinea.[7][8][9][10][11]

Early life[edit]

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.[12]

Military career[edit]

After leaving Eton College, Mann trained to be an officer at Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Scots Guards on 16 December 1972.[13] By 1976 he held the rank of Lieutenant.[14] 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.

Post-military career[edit]

Executive Outcomes[edit]

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.[15]

Sandline International[edit]

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.[16]

Equatorial Guinea coup attempt[edit]

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.[17] 66 of the others were acquitted.[18]

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.[19] The 14 men in the mercenary advance guard that were caught in Equatorial Guinea were sentenced to jail for 34 years.[20]

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.[21]


A friend of Mann's, Nigel Morgan, known for his personal ties to the South African Secret Service, was alleged to have betrayed knowledge of the plot to the South African authorities.[22] The journalist Adam Roberts has argued that Morgan was in the unusual situation of being both a supporter of the coup and also an agent for the government, and that Mann knew Morgan was acting as an informant – but as a way of sounding out whether or not the South African government would care.[23] Mann may then have given the go-ahead under the false belief that South Africa tacitly approved.[23]

R. W. Johnson, on the other hand, argued that only the 'shambolic state of the South African intelligence services' explains why an aborted 19 February attempt by Mann – which fell apart when a plane set to meet them in Zambia suffered a bird strike – was allowed to get off the ground in Polokwane Airport.[24] He emphasises that Morgan had personal and professional ties to Johann Smith, a South African Special Forces veteran and security adviser to President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, and most likely alerted President Thabo Mbeki after the failed first attempt, who in turn tipped off the government of Robert Mugabe.[24]

Peter Fabricius, writing in the South African Journal of International Affairs, suggested President Mbeki, once informed of Mann's plan, allowed the plotters to take off and then be caught on the tarmac in Zimbabwe, in order to make a public example of the Wonga coup and deter further mercenary activity.[23]

Charges dropped and extradition[edit]

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.[9] 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. Mann was incarcerated in Black Beach Prison in Equatorial Guinea, Africa's most notorious prison which is synonymous with brutality.[25] Mann lost his last appeal against the decision to extradite him.[10][26] In a last-ditch effort on 30 January 2008, Mann tried to appeal the judgment to the Zimbabwean Supreme Court.[27] 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.[28][29]

Response by UK Parliamentarians[edit]

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.[30][31][32] During the two years after the government of Equatorial Guinea applied for his extradition, three further Conservative Party MPs submitted written questions.[33][34][35]

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.[36]

That position was supported by three other Conservative MPs during the debate.[37][38][39] Written questions were submitted by a fourth.[40]

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".[41] UK officials were granted access to him on 12 February 2008.[42] 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,[43] although an Early Day Motion about his treatment in prison received some cross-party support.[44]

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.[45] In testimony he spoke frankly about the events leading to the botched attempt to topple Equatorial Guinea's president.[45]

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.[46] On 7 July 2008, Mann was sentenced by an Equatoguinean court to more than 34 years in prison.[11]


On 2 November 2009 he was given "a complete pardon on humanitarian grounds" by President Obiang.[7] He lives in the New Forest.[47]

In popular media[edit]

  • In 2002 Mann played Lieutenant-Colonel Derek Wilford of the Parachute Regiment for Granada Television's Bloody Sunday, a dramatisation by Paul Greengrass of the events of Bloody Sunday.[48]
  • The alleged coup planned for Equatorial Guinea is the subject of the film Coup!, written by John Fortune. Mann is played by Jared Harris, with Robert Bathurst as Mark Thatcher. It was broadcast on BBC Two on 30 June 2006 and on ABC in Australia on 21 January 2008.[49]
  • Simon Mann was interviewed from prison in the documentary Once Upon A Coup, which aired on PBS's Wide Angle in August 2009.
  • On 17 November 2011, Ridley Scott was set to direct and produce the assassination thriller about Simon Mann's coup against the president of Equatorial Guinea in 2004. Gerard Butler was set to play Mann. Robert Edwards was the script writer.[50] No further announcements were made.
  • On 29 April 2019, Markus Meechan (known online as Count Dankula; former UKIP MEP candidate) posted a video on his YouTube channel about Mann, as a part of Meechan's "Absolute Mad Lads" online video series.[51] Meechan later interviewed Mann, following Mann seeing the video about him.[52] Mann corrected and added additional details to the information said in Meechan's video, including continuously receiving emails requesting his services, most of which he believes to be facetious.


Mann's memoir, Cry Havoc, was published in 2011, to mixed reviews.[53][54]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Simon Mann jailed for seven years". The Guardian. London. 10 September 2004. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  2. ^ Leigh, David (10 September 2004). "Wonga list reveals alleged backers of coup". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 August 2007.
  3. ^ "Q&A: Equatorial Guinea 'coup plot'". BBC. Retrieved 22 August 2007.
  4. ^ Carroll, Rory (29 July 2004). "Ex-SAS officer in 'coup plot' admits arms charges". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 August 2007.
  5. ^ Barnett, Antony (28 November 2004). "How much did Straw know and when did he know it?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 August 2007.
  6. ^ Kim Sengupta (11 May 2007). "Coup plotter faces life in Africa's most notorious jail". London: pub. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  7. ^ a b Aislinn Laing (3 November 2009). "British mercenary Simon Mann receives presidential pardon". Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  8. ^ Andy McSmith (2 February 2008). "Zimbabwe sends British mercenary to face the despot he plotted to overthrow". The Independent. London. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  9. ^ a b "SA court drops coup plot charges". BBC News. 23 February 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  10. ^ a b "UK mercenary on trial in Equatorial Guinea". BBC News. 17 June 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  11. ^ a b Mann jailed for Eq. Guinea coup plot, Reuters, 7 July 2008
  12. ^ correspondent, David Smith Africa (14 April 2015). "South Africa's ageing white mercenaries who helped turn tide on Boko Haram" – via
  13. ^ "No. 45892". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 January 1973. p. 1351.
  14. ^ "No. 47083". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 December 1976. p. 16439.
  15. ^ Barlow, Eeben (November 2008). "Perpetuating Disinformation". Eeben Barlow's Military and Security Blog.
  16. ^ "The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4".
  17. ^ "'Mercenary leader' found guilty". BBC News. 27 August 2004. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  18. ^ "Zimbabwe jails UK 'coup plotter'". BBC News. 10 September 2004. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  19. ^ Russell Miller (8 June 2008). "Mark Thatcher: Man on the run". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 17 June 2008. 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.
  20. ^ "Coup plotters jailed in Equatorial Guinea". BBC News. 26 November 2004. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  21. ^ "Mann tries to clear his name". IOL. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  22. ^ "Scratcher's downfall". The Times. 11 June 2006. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  23. ^ a b c Fabricius, Peter (2006). "The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa". South African Journal of International Affairs. 13 (2): 197.
  24. ^ a b R. W. Johnson (16 November 2006). "Her Boy". London Review of Books. 28 (22). Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  25. ^ Birrell, Ian (22 October 2011). "The strange and evil world of Equatorial Guinea". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  26. ^ "Mann in the middle of two African dictators" Archived 3 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine Hugh Russell, The First Post, 2 May 2007.
  27. ^ "BBC NEWS - Africa - Mann loses extradition appeal". Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  28. ^ "Zimbabwe deports Mann to Eq. Guinea". BBC News. 1 February 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  29. ^ David Pallister (5 February 2008). "Zimbabwe accused as Briton sent to Equatorial Guinea jail: Guardian Unlimited". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  30. ^ Henry Bellingham Debates, 18 March 2004 col. 449 Business of the House
  31. ^ Peter Bottomley Written answers, 20 May 2004 col. 1168W Foreign and Commonwealth affairs
  32. ^ Hugo Swire Written answers, 9 December 2004 col. 730W Foreign and Commonwealth affairs: Simon Mann
  33. ^ Ben Wallace Written answers, 5 June 2006 col. 317W Foreign and Commonwealth affairs – Equatorial Guinea
  34. ^ James Arbuthnot Written answers, 14 December 2006 col. 1302W Foreign and Commonwealth affairs: Simon Mann
  35. ^ Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Written answers, 7 July 2007 col. 1005W Foreign and Commonwealth affairs: Simon Mann
  36. ^ Julian Lewis Debates, 7 February 2008 col. 1134 Business of the House
  37. ^ John Whittingdale Debates, 7 February 2008 col. 1137 Business of the House
  38. ^ Richard Benyon Debates, 7 February 2008 col. 1138 Business of the House
  39. ^ Mark Harper Debates, 7 February 2008 col. 1139 Business of the House
  40. ^ Iain Duncan Smith Written answers, 18 February 2008 col. 181W Foreign and Commonwealth affairs – Simon Mann
  41. ^ Julian Lewis Written answers, 18 February 2008 col. 180W Foreign and Commonwealth affairs: Simon Mann
  42. ^ Earl Cathcart Lords Written answers, 20 February 2008 col. WA66 House of Lords – Equatorial Guinea: Simon Mann
  43. ^ Vince Cable Written answers, 21 February 2008 col. 180W Foreign and Commonwealth affairs: Equatorial Guinea: Prisoners
  44. ^ "EDM: Conduct of Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea towards Simon Mann". UK Parliament. 6 May 2008.
  45. ^ a b "I was not the main man", Jonathan Miller, Channel 4, 11 March 2008.
  46. ^ "Equatorial Guinea". Amnesty International. Archived from the original on 17 December 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  47. ^ "The homecoming of Simon Mann". The Independent. 4 November 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  48. ^ "Simon Mann". Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  49. ^ "BBC Drama – Coup!". BBC. 30 June 2006. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
  50. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (17 November 2011). "Ridley Scott And Gerard Butler Plot Film About Simon Mann, Who Tried African Coup". Deadline. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  51. ^ Absolute Mad Lads - Simon Mann, retrieved 1 September 2019
  52. ^ A Chat with an Absolute Mad Lad - Simon Mann, retrieved 1 September 2019
  53. ^ Tim Butcher, Daily Telegraph, 7 November 2011.
  54. ^ Anthony Mockler, The Spectator, 26 November 2011.

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