Simon Mann Pleads Guilty to a Weapons Charge
John Cramer Writes to New Scientist

Peter Mandelson's Alleged Links

The delay in the N4610 trial combined with Simon Mann's smuggled note calling upon powerful friend with connections in UK conservative circle for help provide rich opportunities for the UK's investigative journalists. The Observer has a fine example of what is to come:

Mandelson rented flat from oil tycoon in coup claim: The European Commissioner's alleged links with a millionaire accused of backing a putsch bid in Africa are prompting questions

Peter Mandelson, the twice-sacked minister who is to be Britain's new European Commissioner, rented a luxury London home from the Lebanese millionaire now accused of funding an illegal African coup.

Mandelson's links to Ely Calil - the British-based tycoon who was Lord Archer's financial adviser - will once again raise questions about the former minister's links to rich businessmen.

Mandelson was forced to resign as Northern Ireland secretary in 2001 after he was accused of helping one of the Hinduja brothers obtain a British passport.

Calil, who made his fortune trading oil in Africa, is being sued in Britain for allegedly funding a coup to overthrow the president of the oil-rich west African state of Equatorial Guinea.

The Observer has now established that while Mandelson was Northern Ireland secretary he rented a luxury flat in the prestigious Holland Park area which had been offered to him by Calil. The property was then owned by one of Calil's trust funds.

The N4610 trial doesn't resume until August 18th, which given plenty of time for journalists to crawl all over this and other conservative connections. Enjoy.

MEANWHILE, in the comments, Steven Kaye points out an Independent article:

Mercenaries in trouble spots to be regulated

New laws to regulate mercenaries and private security firms who supply armed guards in trouble spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan are being considered by the Government.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, is said to believe that the arguments in favour of a new law have been strengthened by events in Iraq. Ministers say the companies play a valuable role in keeping the peace but acknowledge the "new situation" must be addressed.

Ministers had argued a law would be unworkable, but the growing reliance on the companies in Iraq has prompted a rethink. Contractors employed by the US supervised interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison, where Iraqis were abused.

The article does not give any specifics about what regulations they are considering, but does contain a plum toward the end:

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: "It is almost impossible to prevent the spread of the use of private military companies. It makes sense to ensure they are regulated."

It is NOT impossible to prevent the spread of the use of PMFs, but the UK lacks the national will. "Security services" are one of the top UK exports since the beginning of the Iraq war. Politicians lack the political will to turn off the taps even though the privatization of military force is a huge power give-away on the part of the government. They could stop it now if they wanted to. Later they won't be able to.

There was some discussion of regulation of PMFs in Parliament following the Sandline Affair. I don't know if anything came of it.

But for starters, there is an additional protocol to the Geneva Convention, International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, 4 December 1989, that the UK should sign onto. That would be a step in the right direction. Then Parliament could pass laws aimed at bringing the UK into compliance (as in the case of New Zealand). Those are a couple of concrete steps the UK could take but almost certainly won't. Too much money is at stake.

ALSO, the Guardian's piece on the Mandelson connection quotes a few more intriguing details from Mann's jailhouse correspondence:

New documents suggest Thatcher had financial ties with Mann. A letter written by Mann and smuggled out of his prison cell in Zimbabwe shows that Mann was expecting Thatcher to make a $200,00 investment in a 'project', although he does not specify what project. 

The letter states: 'This is a situation that calls for everyone to act in concert. It may be that getting us out comes down to a large splodge of wonga! Of course investors did not think this would happen. Did I? 

'Do they think they can be part of something like this with only upside potential - no hardship or risk of this going wrong. Anyone and everyone in this is in it - good times or bad. 

'Now its bad times and everyone has to F-ing well pull their full weight. Anyway... was expecting project funds inwards to Logo [Mann's firm] from Scratcher (200)'. Scratcher is Mann's nickname for Thatcher. A spokesman for Mr Thatcher has denied that he had any knowledge of the coup plot. 

Does anyone know if Mann's letter appears anywhere on the Internet in its entirety?