Some Mother's Son

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'Cocky, aloof and arrogant' was how the Guardian described him. 'A preening male chauvinist pig' was the opinion of the Independent on Sunday's editorial. A Tory columnist summed him up in just four letters that sadly never made it onto Radio 4.

And if Sir Mark Thatcher's contemporaries shed no tears at the news of his recent pyjama-clad arrest, or for the theft of his shoes, jacket and mobile phone from his prison cell, how much more the rest of us laughed. How sweet it was to hear of just a little discomfort experienced by someone who is not just the heir of the most vindictive prime minister in living memory, but who has repeatedly traded on that ruthless reputation for his own enrichment.

'Sir' Mark is reportedly 'worth' £60 million. Known as 'Thickie' by his fellow toffs at Harrow school, all his privilege garnered him only three O-levels. He then failed his accountancy exam three times. A brief foray into motor racing ended when he got lost during the Paris to Dakar rally. When he was eventually found he refused to thank the Algerian rescue party and charmed the press by wittily quoting Bruce Forsyth's, 'Nice to see you, to see you, nice'. History doesn't record whether he followed this up with a Frank Spencer impression, but at least we got to see Maggie cry.

His history of ineptitude has never dissuaded Mark from the firm belief in his god-given right to make obscene amounts of money in questionable circumstances. In the mid-1980s, for instance, he received a commission - reportedly of £12 million - for an arms deal between the governments of Britain and Saudi Arabia. What was he doing associating with such an undemocratic, repressive, nepotistic regime - or with Saudi Arabia for that matter?

One of his many companies was also allegedly a beneficiary in the Pergau dam scandal - when mummy's government infamously tied aid to an arms deal with Malaysia. Tam Dalyell MP has also told the House of Commons that 'Sir' Mark was 'up to his neck' in arms deals with the Iraqi government under Saddam. This was during the 1980s, while it did actually have chemical and biological weapons - many of them courtesy of Britain, Germany and the US - prompting wistful memories of the grisly fate of his (clearly entirely unrelated) namesake Mark Winshaw in Jonathon Coe's excellent What a Carve-Up!

The boy Mark's glittering career continued when he moved to the US, where he settled a civil racketeering lawsuit for an undisclosed sum, and was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service for his role in a home security business that went belly up.

His persecutors persisted in his new home in South Africa, where his company Matrix Capital was investigated for 900 small loans to government officials. Presumably this selfless generosity was a sign that his sympathy was no longer solely with 'the struggling white community' that he had championed during the apartheid era, and now included anyone he could make a quick buck from or through.

But only the hardhearted, the news told us, could not feel for Maggie, tearful once more as news of her boy's current plight reached her. After all, what mother hasn't been through the ordeal of having to post £167,000 bail for a multimillionaire son accused of supporting a military coup in an oil-rich West African state?

The plot to overthrow President Obiang in Equatorial Guinea that Thatcher Jr was questioned in connection with (and of which he denies all knowledge) shines a light on a much larger imperial cabal. It began to unravel with the arrest of Simon Mann and Nick Du Toit this March. Both were leading figures in Executive Outcomes, a pioneering corporate supplier of mercenaries that trained Angolan troops during its horrific civil war and broke a UN embargo to arm Sierra Leone during the 1990s.

The arsenal of weapons that Mann was waiting to meet at Harare airport were for mine security in the Democratic Republic of Congo, went his defence. Du Toit has similarly defended Thatcher's links with Mann on the basis that he was only providing military helicopters for a 'normal business deal' in Sudan - because clearly what those ravaged countries really need are more weapons.

It was Mann's attempts to bribe his way to freedom that first implicated Thatcher, when he tried to locate friends who would spend 'a large splodge of wonga' on his behalf. 'Scratcher' Thatcher was mentioned, though Mann's smuggled note bemoaned that he had thus far been too busy watching the Grand Prix to help a friend in need. You can't beat ruling class solidarity, can you?

This grotesques' gallery also features one JH Archer, though it is unclear whether this donor of £74,000 to Mann refers to either Jeffrey or his son James, or neither. Archer the elder denies any impropriety. I, for one, am willing to take the word of a convicted perjurer who made 69 false expenses claims to the UN Association, who lied about having an Oxford degree to the Sunday Times, and who once told the Guardian that his father was the British consul for Singapore. Singapore has never had a consul and his dad was a journalist in Weston-super-Mare.

The failed coup is a classic example of white on black crime. But for all its protagonists' resemblance to the 'Dogs of War' immortalised by Frederick Forsyth's imperial wet dream, the discovery of oil in Equatorial Guinea has raised the stakes immeasurably. While Mann's mercenaries were to be paid the equivalent of (Dr Evil pinkie at the ready) £1 million, it was the lucrative oil contracts that were the real prize.

A US Senate report has estimated that President Obiang and his family have misappropriated at least £35 million - aided in no small part by Big Oil. The US's fourth biggest oil company, Marathon, has even written cheques to him directly. Understandably this has not played too well in the slums of Equatorial Guinea. With the US aiming to get 15 percent of its supply from West Africa within ten years, perhaps the installation of opposition leader Severo Moto was considered a useful lubricant to oil the wheels further.

In this context, the Guinean government's accusation that Jose Maria Aznar's now deposed Spanish government deployed warships to support the planned coup, and that the US and British governments were aware of it, does not seem fantastic. What does is the idea that we should accept that such parasites, epitomising a system reeking of greed and sweating hypocrisy, could ever heal the scars they have given Africa.