The British father tells that he is locked up on the paradise island in the “hell hole” prison

British hotelier Simon Wood, from Preston, Lancashire, and his wife Francesca Scalfari have been jailed in a Zanzibar prison for money laundering

Simon Wood and Francesca Scalfari were detained in Zanzibar
Simon Wood and Francesca Scalfari were detained in Zanzibar

A British hotelier jailed in a “hell hole” prison in Zanzibar said he “pinched” himself after finally arriving home.

Simon Wood, 51, of Preston, Lancashire, and his wife Francesca Scalfari, 45, were jailed on the West African island of money laundering and other financial crimes just over two weeks ago.

However, they were released after lawyers convinced a judge to dismiss the most serious charges against them, reports said LancsLive.

Under local law, the couple could have stayed in jail for up to eight months while awaiting trial, but Simon believes the money laundering charges were all a “tactic”.

He says there was no real likelihood he or Francesca would have been prosecuted for them – although they still face nine lesser charges.

Simon was jailed on June 7 in the old Kilimani prison built by Portuguese colonizers some 300 years ago, where he was subjected to appalling conditions.

He slept with another inmate on a single mattress and had to defecate through a hole in the 10-person cell.

They sent their 11-year-old son on a plane to Italy as they prepared for detention



Simon was locked up in an old prison, sharing a mattress with another inmate



The guards also shaved his head, felt his food with their fingers, and even occasionally refused visits from relatives, he claimed.

During their time at the home, the couple’s son Luca, 11, lived with his grandparents.

Simon said: “It’s obviously very shocking. I was taken there and strip searched. My wife was in a separate place where the women are.

“On the male side, there are about 600 inmates and about 450 in custody. They’re basically all crammed into rooms of anywhere from 20 to 8 people, and I got into one that initially had ten in a room.

“I had a single mattress on the floor. I had to share this with another man. We were detained 14 hours a day, from 4:30 p.m. until around 6 a.m. at dawn.

The couple are confident of defending themselves against the remaining charges



“It’s quite hot until later in the night and there were mosquitoes. There’s a hole in the wall, that’s basically the toilet.

“The prison was built by the Portuguese in the 17th century and hasn’t really changed, to be honest.”

Simon has lived in Zanzibar for 20 years.

He claims the lawsuit stemmed from a “fight” over money with ex-investors at his resort, the Sharazād Boutique Hotel.

But he said it was a “relief” that a judge had granted him bail, adding that he and his wife are “ready” to defend themselves in court on future occasions.

Simon has lived in Zanzibar for 20 years



He said, “We’re floating now. I pinch myself. There are still 9 charges against us, but we are not afraid of it.

“I am ready to go to court. We are just shocked that this has moved from a civil to a criminal case.”

He went on to say that the ordeal separated son Luca’s parents and affected his elderly parents.

Simon and Francesca put their child alone on a plane bound for Italy the day before she was to go to prison.

The father said he learned of the charges against him and his wife about a month ago.

“We knew what was coming, so we put him on a flight that night,” he explained.

“He had never flown solo before. It was a very difficult 24 hours.

“On Tuesday and Wednesday we managed to video call him.

“He doesn’t know what happened to me. He asked about my hair and I said I had lice which I think he swallowed.”

When the couple learned of the charges against them, they had attempted to ‘lobbyise’ senior regional government officials, but after their pleas failed they were forced to surrender to the police.

Simon said: “At every step, the prosecution’s tactic was to delay because they knew that if we delivered a verdict, we would be released.

“So it was just about keeping us in custody.”

He added: “I’m talking about this in the past now, which is a huge relief, but it’s been difficult.”

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