Swiss Agree to Block More Bank Accounts
The Swiss government said Wednesday that, at the request of the U.S. Justice Department, it is freezing additional bank accounts associated with the Iranian arms controversy. The accounts involve six individuals and three companies.
Wednesday’s action means that accounts involving at least nine persons and six companies have been blocked because they may have been used in connection with the sale of arms to Iran and the transfer of money on behalf of rebel forces in Nicaragua.
The request for Swiss action followed an earlier request in which the Justice Department said that U.S. law had probably been violated.
So far, the Swiss have identified three persons who are under investigation in connection with the Iran affair: Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, who has been dismissed from the staff of the National Security Council, retired Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord and Albert A. Hakim, a business partner of Secord.
No Identities Issued
The Swiss would not identify the six additional persons linked to the frozen accounts. However, Swiss sources indicated that they did not include Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter or Robert C. MacFarlane, former directors of the NSC.
Those sources said the names of no known U.S. government officials appear on the list. Moreover, they said, none of the names appear to be Latino, suggesting that no contra leaders are involved.
The Swiss were noncommittal when asked whether the list included the name of Adnan Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian businessman who helped provide financing for the shipment of American weapons to Iran, or that of Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, who has also been linked to the deals.
And they would not deny that two of the names are those of Canadian businessmen Donald Fraser and Walter (Ernie) Miller. Fraser and Miller have reportedly complained that they put up several million dollars to finance a shipment of American arms to Iran and have not been fully repaid.
According to reliable sources, the accounts under investigation are all with Credit Suisse, one of the three largest banks in Switzerland.
U.S. Seeking Funds
Swiss authorities indicated that the six persons involved in Wednesday’s action are not being charged with violating any U.S. law. Sources said it has been made clear to the Swiss that the U.S. government wants to recover any money associated with the arms shipments that moved through accounts these people have in Switzerland.
This would suggest that the Justice Department believes there is still a considerable sum of money unaccounted for in the controversial and complex weapons transactions.
It was not clear whether the banks would block all the accounts of the individuals referred to Wednesday or only those believed to be associated with other accounts implicated by the U.S. government. Credit Suisse officers said it is their understanding that all accounts held by the persons or companies will be blocked and that the records relating to them will be examined.
The freeze will be in effect until Jan. 15, Swiss government sources said.
Meanwhile, the American ambassador to Switzerland, Faith Ryan Whittlesey, denied an account in the Zurich paper Tages Anzeiger that she was suspected of involvement in the funds transfer from Iran to the contras.
She issued a statement declaring:
“Prior to reading news accounts of the Iran-arms-contra incident, I had no knowledge of it. I was never asked to be a part of it. I had no involvement in it.”
Talked With North
The German-language Tages Anzeiger said that Whittlesey had frequent phone conversations with Col. North, “which was not illegal,” but added that many members of Congress would like to “know a little more about the contents of those conversations.”
Whittlesey was appointed by Reagan to the Swiss post and served from 1981 to 1983, when she returned to the White House as a special assistant to the President, spending much of her time in developing support for the contra cause in Central America.
During that period, she knew North, who played a major role in finding private support for the contras.
In 1985, she left the White House to resume her post as ambassador to Switzerland.
She has recently been in the United States to answer charges that a “slush fund” was raised for her to cover expensive entertainment bills as ambassador. The Justice Department recently said that it had cleared her of any misdeeds.