Mann was sentenced in 2008 to 34 years in the notorious “hellhole” that is Malabo’s Black Beach prison for his role in the doomed coup.
Yet, according to the extraordinary claims of Mrs Mann, in her first interview with a UK Magazine said since her husband was granted a presidential pardon in November 2009, conditions there could not have been nicer.
Rather than surviving on the meagre rations handed out to fellow prisoners, the Old Etonian and former SAS commando dined on food prepared by a hotel chef, provided in such bounteous quantities that he embarked on a diet to stay slim.
When he required medical treatment for a hernia, he was cared for in the “fabulous” president’s private clinic.
“The president arranged for hotel meals every day and Simon said he knew which chef was on that day by the food they cooked but he never ate all of it because he wanted to stay trim and slim,” Mrs Mann told Tatler magazine.
Mann’s treatment at the hands of President Teodoro Obiang was so wonderful, she said, that the couple have sent the “lovely” dictator a book about the New Forest as a thank-you.
President Obiang granted Mann a pardon on “humanitarian grounds”. At the time, diplomatic sources suggested Mann had struck a secret deal whereby he implicated others, including Sir Mark Thatcher, son of Lady Thatcher, and Ely Calil, a London-based businessman, in the coup in exchange for his freedom. Both have repeatedly denied any involvement.
Mrs Mann’s interview raises more questions than it answers about the murky circumstances surrounding her husband’s release.
He was arrested in Zimbabwe in 2004 after landing at Harare airport with a band of South African mercenaries to pick up a cache of weapons, including 100 rocket-propelled grenades launchers and 61 AK assault rifles.
After four years in jail there he was kidnapped and smuggled into Equatorial Guinea, the oil-rich West African nation, where he stood trial and received a 34-year sentence.
Mrs Mann, 39, said she was on the verge of leaving her 57-year-old husband, Sandhurst-educated heir to the Mann brewing fortune, last year because she did not know if he would ever be freed. She gave birth to his fourth child, Arthur, while he was in prison.
However, she explained: “Little did I know that President Obiang was busy being a lovely, lovely man and giving me back the man I love and the father of my children. He was changing the way he ran his country, and looking to reform, and his treatment of Simon was a sign of that.
“I never knew that the president was going to be as fabulous as he was and I’m eternally grateful to him.”
She refused to confirm or deny that she knew about the planned coup, saying only: “He wasn’t like, ‘I’m off to buy a coat and then I’m off to do a coup’. He was here and there… If I were a neurotic person, I would now be dead or at the bottom of a bottle of gin. You have to live and let live. And he could just as easily have been run over by a bus. I’m pretty laidback.”
The Manns remain in regular contact with the Equatorial Guinea government, Mrs Mann said, visiting the embassy in Mayfair for tea. Mr Mann is working on a book about his ordeal and plans to sell the film rights. The UK Telegraph