Mark Thatcher agrees to bargain in coup case
Mark Thatcher, who denies funding a foiled coup in Africa, has agreed a plea bargain with a South African court in return for a lighter sentence, a family source said on Wednesday.
The son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was arrested in August on charges of backing an attempt to overthrow oil-rich Equatorial Guinea's government.
"It is true that there is a hearing in the High Court tomorrow (Thursday). A plea bargain has been agreed between the state and him (Thatcher)," the source told Reuters, asking not to be identified.
A South African prosecution official told Reuters Thatcher would appear in the Cape Town High Court on Thursday, but declined to give details of the nature of the hearing.
"I can confirm that we're going to court tomorrow at 10 a.m. (0300 EST) at the Cape Town High Court," Sipho Ngwema, a senior prosecution official told Reuters.
The deal comes after Margaret Thatcher visited her son in Cape Town at Christmas.
Britain's Sky television reported he would plead guilty to unwittingly contributing to financing of coup plot by paying for air ambulance services used by mercenaries recruited for the plot.
Thatcher would pay the fine, receive a suspended five-year sentence and be allowed to leave South Africa to rejoin his family in United States, Sky said.
Philip Higgo, a member of Thatcher's legal team who is on holiday, told Reuters he was not aware of such a deal, while Thatcher's other lawyer, Alan Bruce-Brand declined to comment.
Thatcher was arrested on Aug. 25 last year on suspicion of violating South Africa's strict anti-mercenary laws, designed to crush an industry that has exported military professionals willing to sell their lethal expertise across the continent.
South African prosecutors allege that Thatcher, who has lived in South Africa for the past eight years, was one of the key financiers of the coup plot that has also led to the arrest of a number of South Africans in Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe.
Thatcher's American-born wife took the couple's two children to the United States shortly after his arrest, but returned to Cape Town to be with her husband.