MANAGUA, Nicaragua — A Nicaraguan businessman admitted Monday that he spied for the United States, saying he did it for the excitement rather than for money. Nicaraguan officials said he passed secrets on strategic oil storage to three U.S. diplomats.
The accused spy, Guillermo Quant, vice president of the Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce, was presented to reporters at a crowded news conference. He was arrested Aug. 19 after a traffic violation outside the U.S. Embassy.
Capt. Oscar Loza, state security operations chief, said that since 1983, Quant gave classified information to the CIA on the location of army oil tanks and the arrival and transport of military equipment.
Loza said that security agents warned Quant last November that he should stop the activities but that he ignored the warning.
Quant said he began spying "for the attraction, the curiosity, the mystery--you know, like when one reads a novel."
Appearing nervous and speaking in a barely audible whisper, Quant, 54, told of being recruited by U.S. diplomats and taught to code and send secret messages using carbon paper and soft lead pencils.
But he denied having access to state secrets, saying the information he gave out was only what he learned from the transport company he manages and "what one hears on the street."
He said the only money he received was reimbursement for trips to Costa Rica and Miami, where he was given lie detector tests.
He has been well treated since his arrest, Quant said.
"I am in their hands," he said of the Nicaraguan authorities. "I'm not afraid. I told them all I can, and I feel calm."
Quant faces trial for espionage. The maximum penalty for any crime in Nicaragua is 30 years in prison.
Loza said the American diplomats who worked with Quant were Michael Donovan, former head of the U.S. Embassy's economic section, who left Managua last month; Ben Wickham, a political officer from 1983 to 1985, and Albert Amory, a political officer from 1982 to 1983.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Al Laun said: "I think they are barking up the wrong tree with Quant. He was on the board of directors of the American school, so it is quite normal for him to have gone to the embassy."
Last March, two Interior Ministry officials were accused of spying for the CIA and were court-martialed and imprisoned. One later died in what the government called a suicide.