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Tony Buckingham: Swashbuckler with a Colourful Past

11 Jan 2013

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 Tony Buckingham

Tony Buckingham is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Oil, a company established in the 1990s to hold oil and gas exploration interests in offshore Angola.

One of the Isle of Jersey's richest men, Buckingham boasts a £500 million fortune.
Also described as a significant donor to the Conservative Party, Buckingham is known to most people as the FTSE 250's most famous former mercenaries, a tag he predictably deplores.

The 59-year-old is believed to be a former member of the Special Boat Service, which entered the oil business in 1972 as a North Sea diver, before becoming a concession negotiator in the 1980s for Ranger Oil and Premier Oil.

By 1989, he became an adviser to the government of Angola and assisted its oil ministry in establishing an exploration and production company.
Three years later, Buckingham formed Heritage, formerly HOC, to hold oil and gas exploration interests in offshore Angola.

Along with Ranger, HOC owned half of a company called ROWAL, which in 1993 was forced to abandon its Angolan oil fields and drilling equipment after part of the country was overrun by UNITA rebels.

To regain the equipment, Buckingham did a deal with former South African apartheid-era operatives Eeben Barlow, Lafras Luitingh and Simon Mann, the one-time Scots Guard who subsequently gained notoriety for leading the Wonga Coup in Equatorial Guinea.

Mann was a former officer of the British Special Forces SAS, Etonian son of a rich beer brewing family in Britain, who after his service for queen and country became a mercenary under his boss Buckingham.
The joint venture that resulted, Executive Outcomes, was a private military company that had initially been formed by Barlow in 1989 and which primarily employed former members of the South African Defence Force and special forces.

Executive Outcomes recovered ROWAL's equipment and the Angola government subsequently engaged the firm to train elements of the army and “support it” against the rebels.

The company also signed a similar deal with the government of Sierra Leone in 1995, but by the following year, when Executive Outcomes had become quite high profile, Mann and Buckingham set up an offshoot, Sandline International, with another ex-Scots Guard, Lt-Col Tim Spicer. Famously, Sandline shipped arms to Sierra Leone in contravention of a UN embargo.

Heritage's flotation prospectus states: “Following the cessation of operations and subsequent dissolution of each of Executive Outcomes and Sandline International, there has been no association (by Buckingham) with any private military contractors. Buckingham has had no substantive business contact with Simon Mann since 1998 and no contact of any nature with him since 2000.”

Nonetheless, several stories linked Buckingham to Mann, who was alleged to have tried to overthrow the government of the oil rich African country, Equatorial Guinea, in March 2004.

The failed coup, better known as the "Wonga Coup" ended prematurely during a stopover of the weapon-and-mercenary-carrying plane at Harare/Zimbabwe International Airport on 7th March, 2004. The alleged coup leader, Mann, was sentenced to four years in prison in Zimbabwe and after serving his prison term, extradited to Equatorial Guinea on 30th January, 2008.

However, he was not the only one allegedly involved in the failed coup. Other persons in Britain have been accused of having been involved in the failed coup as well. There is Eli Calil, a British of Lebanese origin, and a friend of Equatorial Guineas's opposition leader, Severo Moto Nsa. He allegedly brought Mann and Moto together.

Allegedly, Calil happily and illegally banked money for the former horrible Nigerian dictator the late Sani Abacha. Calil is also being investigated in France for money laundering on the one side, and on the other side he is a close friend of Tony Blair's ex-minister for scandals, Peter Mandelson.

Also allegedly involved is Lord Jeffrey Archer, best-selling author and former chief of Maggie Thatcher's Conservative Party, who spent a few years in prison for perjury and perverting the course of justice. He allegedly put a bit of his pocket money, a few ten thousands of British pounds on Mann's coup savings account placed in the tax haven of Guernsey. He continues to deny the allegation, but there was a payment made by a J.H. Archer into that account. He was alleged to have phoned Calil before the coup, most likely to tell him that crime does not pay.

Not to forget Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who has been famous for making headlines and who cobbled together an income without breaking too much sweat.

Mann, after his extradition from Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea, has not only confessed for the first time to his involvement in the coup, but also implicated Mark Thatcher and Calil as key players in this affair.

Others like Greg Wales, Lord Archer, David Hart, and Gerhard Merz were either not named or declared as "not involved".

Tags: Business, World, Swashbuckler

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