Sir Mark Thatcher, 2nd Baronet (born 15 August 1953) is the only son of Sir Denis Thatcher and Baroness Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister, and twin brother of Carol Thatcher. In addition to his prominence as the only son of one of the world's best known politicians, Thatcher has attracted headlines for his early youthful playboy lifestyle, involvement in motorsports, business associations, and for the role he was alleged to have played in an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea.
On 19 September 2005, the couple announced their intention to divorce.
On 27 March 2008, Thatcher married Lady Francis Russell (Sarah Jane Russell). She is the ex-wife of Lord Francis Russell (a younger son of John Russell, 13th Duke of Bedford), the daughter of Terence J. Clemence and a sister of The Viscountess Rothermere.
Thatcher was later employed in the jewellery business and was involved in a succession of unsuccessful career attempts in the Far East. His business dealings at the time that his mother was Prime Minister were the subject of much press attention.
Thatcher is alleged by a Saudi dissident, Mohammed al Khilewi, as well as by former Labour MP Tam Dalyell, and The Guardian newspaper, to have received a multimillion-pound commission on the £20,000,000,000 Al Yamamah arms contract with Saudi Arabia, which his mother signed in 1985 as Prime Minister. According to The Guardian, "Sir Mark has always denied receiving this payment or exploiting his mother's connections in business dealings."
In 1998 South African authorities investigated his firm for running loan shark operations. A company owned by Sir Mark offered unofficial small loans to hundreds of police officers, military personnel and civil servants. When they defaulted on the loans they were pursued by debt collectors and charged 20% interest rates, according to the Star of Johannesburg.
Other widely reported Thatcher embarrassments include allegations of U.S. tax evasion (a criminal case was eventually dropped) and a racketeering case in Texas which was settled out of court. According to The Daily Telegraph of 26 August 2004, "In 1998, he was at the centre of a scandal after he lent huge sums of money at exorbitant interest rates to more than 900 local police officers and civil servants in Cape Town. He admitted lending the cash but insisted that he had done nothing wrong. He is also thought to have profited from contracts to supply aviation fuel in various African countries."
The Sunday Times, quoting "city sources", said he had amassed a personal fortune of £60m, the majority of which is in offshore accounts, attributed to shrewd investments and a series of "astute deals in Africa".
On 24 November 2004, the Cape Town High Court upheld a subpoena from the South African Justice Ministry that required him to answer under oath questions from Equatorial Guinean authorities regarding the alleged coup attempt. He was due to face questioning on 25 November 2004, regarding offences under the South African Foreign Military Assistance Act; however, these proceedings were later postponed until 8 April 2005. Ultimately, following a process of plea bargaining, Thatcher pleaded guilty to negligence in investing in an aircraft "without taking proper investigations into what it would be used for". Thatcher admitted in court that he had paid the money, but said he was under the impression it was going to be invested in an air ambulance service to help the impoverished of Africa. This explanation was not believed by the judge and he was fined three million rand (approximately $500,000) and received a four-year suspended jail sentence.
On 3 April 2005, Sir Mark, then living with his mother in London, announced that his family home will be in Europe after he was refused a residence visa to live in the United States as a result of his guilty plea in the Equatorial Guinea affair. His children, he stated, will be educated in the United States.
In Equatorial Guinea in June 2008, Simon Mann claimed during his trial testimony that Thatcher, now resident in Spain, "was not just an investor, he came completely on board and became a part of the management team" of the coup plot.
Interview: Claude Colart discusses the arrest of Mark Thatcher on suspicion of plotting a coup against the government of Equatorial Guinea
Aug 25, 2004; ROBERT SIEGEL All Things Considered (NPR) 08-25-2004 Interview: Claude Colart discusses the arrest of Mark Thatcher on suspicion...