S Africa terror accused could plead guilty to blackmail
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Last Updated: Friday, February 18, 2011, 23:48
Johannesburg: A South African man accused of threatening terror attacks against Britain and the United States is prepared to plead guilty to blackmail but not terrorism, prosecutors said on Friday.

Brian Patrick Roach, a 64-year-old businessman, faces terrorism, weapons and money laundering charges after allegedly sending messages to authorities threatening to unleash foot-and-mouth disease in Britain and the United States unless he was paid USD 4 million (three million euros).

"He's prepared to plead guilty to attempted extortion, but he denies the threats to engage in terrorist activity and he maintains that the acts that he committed do not amount to contravention of the Terrorism Act," prosecution spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said.

Roach abandoned an application for bail Friday and asked to be allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of attempted extortion. Prosecutors meanwhile added a weapons charge to the accusations against him after police said they had discovered an AK-47 and ammunition at his home.

A Johannesburg court adjourned the case until February 22.

Prosecutors presented messages allegedly sent by Roach to authorities at Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs threatening to devastate the country's beef industry with foot-and-mouth disease.

"We will devastate your farms and then we will then take the problem to your co-conspirator the USA," said one letter allegedly sent last year.

"We have the expertise and resources to do this very effectively and will be able to devastate the industry in the UK which will cost billions to the economy."

Prosecutors say Roach blamed Britain and the United States for failing to protect white farmers in Zimbabwe who lost their farms under a land reform programme promoted by President Robert Mugabe, whom Roach allegedly called "the tyrant from hell."

"All I can say is that this action is the 'last resort' after several years of fighting our cause," he allegedly said in an email.

Roach was arrested Saturday near the small resort town of Hartbeespoort in South Africa's North West province.

Police said the arrest followed a six-month investigation by South African and British police and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.


First Published: Friday, February 18, 2011, 23:48

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