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Swiss Turn Over Iran-Contra Records to U.S.

November 03, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Sixty-six pounds of Swiss bank records that would be a central piece of evidence in any criminal prosecution of principals in the Iran-Contra affair were turned over to U.S. investigators today after a year of court fights to lift Switzerland's banking secrecy laws, the office of special prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh announced.

The Swiss Ministry of Justice supplied the records to Walsh's investigators, who went to Switzerland to get them.

The records, which concern accounts controlled by former Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord, his partner, Iranian-born businessman Albert Hakim, and arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, are one of the most important pieces of the Iran-Contra puzzle.

The records concern several accounts set up in 1985 and 1986 by Secord, Hakim, Ghorbanifar, fired National Security Council staffer Oliver L. North and other intermediaries.

Secord, Hakim and Ghorbanifar had challenged the release of the records and, without them, Walsh's office has been reluctant to make a final decision on whether to seek indictments in the scandal.

'A Gaping Hole'

"It was a gaping hole in the investigation," said one source familiar with Walsh's inquiry.

The records trace the flow of some of the funds used in the Iran-Contra operation, detailing the movement of proceeds from the Iran arms sales and donations from U.S. citizens and foundations into Swiss bank accounts controlled by Secord, Hakim and Ghorbanifar.

The bank accounts involved in the case include one under the name of Lake Resources, a Panama-based company controlled by Secord. Investigators have said that the account was used to channel funds from the Iran arms sales to the Contras and that North helped set up the Lake Resources account.

Under Swiss treaties, Switzerland supplies banking documents to a legitimate criminal investigation. Lawyers for Secord, Hakim and Ghorbanifar argued that the American investigators were looking into political offenses rather than criminal ones and that Switzerland should not provide the documents. Switzerland's highest court rejected those arguments, however.

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