Brit is stuck in ‘hell hole’ prison on African island without food and water

A wealthy Briton could face up to 20 years in prison after being charged with money laundering.

Simon Wood, 51, was jailed on the Indian Ocean island off the coast of East Africa after being arrested with his wife Francesca Scalfari, 45, just over two weeks ago.

They are being held in a “hell hole” prison after being charged with money laundering by police on the island paradise of Zanzibar.

His family said police shaved his head when he was arrested and then placed him in a cell with 200 other dangerous inmates, including murderers.

They also said the couple has been denied basic necessities, including access to water, and family members have been banned from jail on several occasions to see them.

The couple’s next of kin allege their arrest is related to lawsuits brought against them by ex-investors at their hotel, The Sharazad Boutique, dating back to 2017.

Simon Wood, Francesca Scalfari and son Luca



British hotelier Simon Wood faces up to 20 years in prison



But since these cases were later settled in Simon and Francesca’s favour, they have now been “confused” to explain why new criminal charges were raised earlier this month.

Local laws allow inmates to be held in prison for eight months without trial, and Simon’s mother, Christine Wood, of Preston, Lancashire, says she is concerned for his well-being.

She said: “I am very concerned about my son Simon and his Italian wife Francesca, who are entering their third week in prison in Zanzibar.

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

“For them, paradise has quickly turned into hell and until the court finds them ‘innocent’ they will remain in prison.”

Simon Wood and Francesca Scalfari. detained in Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean



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

He said: “A hellhole would be a fairly accurate description.

“There is no food or water, they have to buy their water – and all the food that is brought in is prodded and examined by the guards.

“It’s very hot there, full of mosquitoes and it’s not somewhere you would want to see your worst enemy, to be honest. To call it primitive would be complimentary.”

Jim explained that Simon, originally from Preston, Lancs., had arrived on the beautiful island for 20 years, where he had met his future wife, Francesca, and had their son Luca (age 11).

The archipelago, which falls under the jurisdiction of Tanzania, is known for its warm weather and soft-sand beaches – attracting about 500,000 tourists a year.

The couple later decided to turn their beachfront home into a 30-room boutique hotel, featuring villas from £200 a night with ocean views, a restaurant and a pool.

Their families say the couple has been denied basic necessities, including access to water



But Jim said that after they “break up” with two investors who put money into the company, the couple had fought civil suits in the local courts for years.

He said: “Another Italian couple involved with NGOs on the mainland invested money with them and became partners, and together they founded the hotel.

“And then they fell out, many years ago now, and for three to five years there were civil cases going on.

‘But Francesca and Simon won three civil cases against their ex-partners’

Jim said the couple, who own several businesses on the island and employ about 60 people, believed their legal troubles were over a few years ago.

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

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

“And it’s all blown up in the last month and a half, really, when everything was way behind them.”

The couple made their first appearance in court yesterday (June 22) and were charged with money laundering, which is believed to carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.

And Jim says that while their families are assisted by officials from both Italy and Britain, the couple suffers from the appalling conditions in their separate prisons.

He said: “They’ve both lost weight and are clearly uncomfortable and upset, that’s for sure.

“The prison is dilapidated to say the least. Simon is in a series of rooms with 200 condemned inmates and sleeps on the floor on a mattress.

“Francesca is in a room with about 20 people. They had no water for two days and two nights – and you can imagine what that would do for one person, let alone twenty.”

Jim insists the couple could prove their innocence, but says this is difficult to achieve as they are currently unable to get bail.

He said: “If they were admitted, they would be able to prove their innocence in no time.

“But from the inside they can’t, so they’re frustrated. It’s not fun to watch.”

It is clear that Zanzibar President Hussein Mwinyi will attend a local investment forum today (June 23) where he can criticize the couple’s detention.

A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirmed they were helping a British citizen currently detained in Tanzania, but declined to provide further details.

They said: “We are supporting a British citizen detained in Tanzania and are in contact with local authorities.”

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