Sunday Morning
Moto Would Have Been a President in a Bottle

The BBC to Air a Show on Thatcher and the Failed Coup

Tonight on BBC3, Thatcher and the Failed Coup

For the last 10 months, detail after detail about the disastrous attempt to mount a coup in Equatorial Guinea has been leaking into the public arena.

But this film blows the lid off the coup, meeting the key players and dishing the dirt that no-one else knows. It tells the inside story of international power play, oil-fuelled greed, men with guns and the son of the former British Prime Minister.

Fronted by Alex Millar, this film puts together the jigsaw of what happened, why, and who knew about it. During the process, the team met intelligence officers, top ranking US senators, diplomats, men who were approached to take part in the coup and more.

(Thanks A.!)

UPDATE: In the comments, Jan points out that the Guardian gives us a preview:

A senior former state department official in Washington, Joseph Sala, has disclosed he was hired by the plotters to gain US support for the coup. Mr Sala tells a BBC3 TV programme tonight that he was offered $40,000 (£21,351) to promote the plotters' cause there. Records for Sir Mark's mobile phone show that he was among those placing calls to a London businessman accused of masterminding the Washington plot.

Eli Calil, a millionaire middleman in African oil deals and a friend of the Labour politician Peter Mandelson, was allegedly at the centre of a group of London businessmen and mercenaries trying to promote their own candidate to take over the tiny but oil-rich state of Equatorial Guinea.

Its ruler, President Teodoro Obiang, was believed to be dying of cancer, and valuable oil concessions were hoped to be up for grabs. Much of the country's mushrooming oil industry is controlled by US companies.

Sir Mark is in limbo, staying at his mother's house in London while he attempts to renew his visa to gain entry to the US. The US authorities are deciding whether to grant him admission, despite his having a criminal conviction.

The former prime minister's son fled South Africa following his conviction and £270,000 fine there for financing a helicopter gunship to be used in the coup. In a plea bargain, Sir Mark admitted investing in the mercenaries' scheme, despite realising the helicopter "might" be used for mercenary activity. He and his friends have tried to present his role as unwitting and peripheral.

But the new evidence appears to place him at the centre of events. Phone records which the Guardian has seen show him placing two international calls from his home in South Africa to the mobile phone of Eli Calil, then based in his London mansion in Chelsea.

The calls were made within half an hour on February 2 last year, when planning for the coup was at its height. A fortnight earlier, Sir Mark had invested $275,000 during meetings in South Africa. Other alleged plotters had travelled to Spain to brief their candidate for president, the exiled African politician Severo Moto. In a third key leg of the alleged plan, a British businessman, Greg Wales, went to the US and hired a lobbyist who had influence in Washington.

Joseph Sala, who now runs the lobbying firm the ANN Group, says in tonight's programme: "The arrangement that we struck with Wales and the friends of Moto [unidentified] in February was that we would be paid $40,000 to put together a four-day programme for Moto in Washington, access to the Congress, think-tanks, media". He tells the programme, Thatcher and the Coup that Failed, that "the assumption in Washington would be that Calil wanted access to Equatorial Guinea's oil and that he, Calil, was prepared to do whatever was necessary to bring Moto to power on the assumption that Moto would return the favour.

"It's callous, it's crude, but it's the way of the world."