Somewhat to my surprise, I find the answer to the timing of the Mark Thatcher arrest: he was getting ready to move to the US where presumably his attempts to liberate the oil of Equatorial Guinea from oppression would be more appreciated.
Over the past week, Thatcher had sold four vehicles, put his house on the market, reserved flights to the U.S. for his family and enrolled his two children in American schools, ThisDay, a Johannesburg-based newspaper reported today, without saying where it got the information. Ngwema confirmed the report in a telephone interview.
I'll bet they were moving (back) to his wife's home state of Texas.
There is a really juicy piece by Keith Dovkants of the Evening Standard on the This Is London site. One again, Thatcher was under mother's wing:
Margaret Thatcher was on sparkling form. Despite her frailty, she insisted on meeting all the guests at her son's lavish Christmas party. There were more than 70 of them, gathered around a sumptuous buffet laid out by the swimming pool at Mark Thatcher's sprawling mansion in Cape Town's Constantia suburb.
The guests, some of whom had flown in from London, were charmed by the iconic 78 yearold ex-prime minister who, according to one, displayed an irrepressible cheerfulness.
Baroness Thatcher might not have been so genial if she had known she was meeting the key plotters in a highly illegal plan to overthrow the president of an oil-rich African country. And she would have been distinctly unhappy if she had known that her beloved son Mark was to be accused of being at the heart of the plot - something he has strenuously denied.
The article also discuses the matter of Mom's old friend, the disgraced Lord Archer:
Our investigation reveals that Mann, 51, sought money to finance the coup from individuals in his influential social and business circle. Leaked legal documents show a payment of $134,980 (£74,000) was made to Mann's company, by a "J.H. Archer", four days before Mann was seized.
The initials are those of Lord Archer, the disgraced Conservative peer and bestselling author who is an old friend of Baroness Thatcher. His friendship with Eli Calil, a London-based businessman who has been accused of being involved in the coup attempt, goes back even further - more than 30 years.
Soon after Mark Thatcher's arrest yesterday, Lord Archer's lawyers sought to quell speculation that the peer might have been involved in bankrolling the mercenary operation and said in a statement that he had "no prior knowledge". His lawyers also denied he had issued a cheque for the amount shown on the bank statement from Mann's company. When it was pointed out the sum was paid by credit transfer, his legal spokesman said Lord Archer "considers the matter closed".
Here's another good bit from the article:
Barrie Penrose is researching a book on the attempted coup. He said: "If this had worked, it would have been one of the poshest coups in history. Simon Mann, the well-connected Old Etonian ex-SAS officer, went around his well-heeled friends asking them if they wanted to invest in a little project. How much he told them about what he was planning is not clear. Some doubtless knew the full story, but others probably did not."
And why should an accused cannibal be allowed to sit on 10% of the world's oil reserves in darkest Africa and keep the profits for himself? Aren't the well-heeled and well-connected entitled to take it from him? Isn't that what having a title is all about?
So this seems to be the peak of Sir Mark's career -- combatting his "distinct lack of brains, charm and business acumen" with a deep sense of entitlement, to scale the heights. Wow. What a guy.
MEANWHILE, more arrests are imminent.
UPDATE: Josh Berthume tells a joke I wish I'd thought of:
HERE IS A JOKE FOR MY BRITISH READERS: Mark Thatcher claims he wasn't trying to overthrow the government, necessarily, its just that "Equatorial Guinea has so much that needs privatizing." Zing!
ALSO, I've been wondering where Mark Thatcher was intent on moving to. He and his wife appear on the client list of Harold Leidner a landscape artist whose website claims he did 15 of the 100 most expensive yards in Dallas. This could be from back when the Thatchers used to live in Dallas, or it could be the Mark Thatcher, sandal inventor. But a journalist should enquire whether Mr. & Mrs. Thatcher have any current projects with the firm.
AHA! I was right! According to the Guardian, the Thatcher family was bound for Dallas:
Police in South Africa, where Thatcher has lived since 1995, have information that the 51-year-old businessman had put his $3.3 million home up for sale and had booked flights for his American wife and two children to Dallas, police spokesman Sipho Ngwema said. Thatcher's two children had already been enrolled in schools in Dallas.
Next question: Who are Thatcher's buddies in Dallas?
Regarding the Texas connection, the Evening Standard remarks:
In 1987 he married Diane Burgdorf, the daughter of a millionaire Texas car dealer he met while working as a salesman for Lotus. Settled in Dallas, he created a complex web of companies, helped along by the contacts he had made through his mother. His ability to alienate people also continued. Neighbours were left aghast at the occasion he stormed into a house across the street and ordered the woman who opened the front door to move her car from outsidehis house. At a get-to-know you party he refused a name tag, saying: "If they they don't know who I am by now they never will."
But he also made friends. Intriguingly,a 1994 newspaper article reported among his powerful Texan allies were one George W Bush Jr, then running for state governorship.
As is remarked upon in the Scotsman, Dallas is also home to Triton Energy:
Dallas-based Triton Energy, which has close ties to President George Bush, Exxon Mobil and Chevron Texaco have together invested more than US$5billion in Equatorial Guinea's burgeoning oil production, predicted soon to provide five percent of US oil needs.
Triton has been an important source of Bush campaign funds:
Commerce Secretary Donald Evans is a key link to many of the Bush money sources. . . . Evans then became Bush's national finance chairman, and from that post organized the pioneers -- a group of more than 100 individuals who pledged to each raise $100,000. In addition to Kenneth Lay, and the Kinders of Enron, the pioneers included executives of First Energy Corp., Texas Oil and Gas, CSX Transportation, Occidental Chemical, Triton Energy Corp., Reliant Energy, the Texas Utilitites Co., Vaughn Petroleum, Sanchez Oil and Gas, and Jerry McCutchin Drilling Co.
And by the way, where's Maggie? Fobes has just ranked her number 21 on their newly released list of the World's Hundred Most Powerful Women. Their article on the list begins:
"I don't mind how much my ministers talk," Baroness Margaret Thatcher once said, "as long as they do what I say." The former British prime minister long ago defied the conventional wisdom that women can gain power only by studiously working behind the scenes to forge consensus. That's why she and 99 other leaders in politics, business and social causes have made it to our first ever ranking of the world's most powerful women.