Wealthy Brits locked in African ‘hellhole’ prison with 200 dangerous inmates


A British couple locked up abroad have been placed in a mosquito-infested prison where even water has to be paid for.

Simon Wood has been arrested for money laundering in Zanzibar alongside his wife Francesca Scalfari after falling out with investors who helped fund a hotel they were developing.

Simon’s family said police shaved the 51-year-old’s head as soon as they arrested him and pushed him into a cell with 200 other inmates, many of whom were dangerous criminals serving sentences for violent crimes, including murder.

Simon’s mother, Christine Wood, of Preston, Lancs., says she is “concerned” for his well-being.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is working on the couple’s case

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Christine said: “I am very worried for my son Simon and his Italian wife Francesca who are entering their third week of imprisonment in Zanzibar.

“Now they have been accused of money laundering but don’t know why.

“For them, heaven quickly turned into hell and until the court finds them ‘not guilty’, they remain in jail.”

Francesca’s uncle, Jim Betteridge, 62, a British expat living in Tuscany, Italy, added that Simon and Francesca are being held in “primitive” conditions.

The couple own several businesses in Zanzibar and employ around 60 locals
The couple own several businesses in Zanzibar and employ around 60 locals

He said: “A hell hole would be a pretty accurate description.

“There is no food or water provided, they have to buy their own water – and any food that is brought in is searched and probed by the guards.

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“It’s very hot in there, full of mosquitoes and it’s not a place where you would want to see your worst enemy, frankly. To call it primitive would be laudatory.

Jim said the couple, who own several businesses on the island and employ around 60 people, thought their legal troubles were behind them a few years ago.

However, on June 7, they were suddenly arrested by the police and thrown into a local jail where they have been held ever since.

He said: “I don’t think anyone knows how this now settled and completed civil case was unearthed again and turned into this criminal prosecution case.

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“And it all exploded in the last month and a half, really, when everything was well behind them.”

Zanzibar has a reputation for being an island paradise - but its prisons are a whole different story
Zanzibar has a reputation for being an island paradise – but its prisons are a whole different story

The couple made their first court appearance yesterday (June 22) and were charged with money laundering – which would carry a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars.

Jim says that Simon and Francesca could easily prove their innocence if they could only get out on bail “but inside they can’t, so they’re frustrated.” It’s not a pretty sight. »

Zanzibar President Hussein Mwinyi is due to attend a local investment forum today (June 23) where protests against the couple’s detention are expected.

A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirmed they were helping a British national who is currently imprisoned in Tanzania, but declined to give further details.

They said: ‘We are supporting a British national detained in Tanzania and are in contact with the local authorities.




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