Heads Little-Known Affiliate of Contra-Aid Group : Ex-Canadian Lawmaker's Arms Actions Probed

Times Staff Writers

Congressional and Canadian investigators are trying to determine whether a former member of the Canadian Parliament, who is active in a staunch anti-communist group that has supplied aid to the Nicaraguan rebels, played a role in the diversion of Iran arms profits to the contras.

John Gamble, the former member of Parliament and a Toronto tax lawyer, heads a little-known Canadian affiliate of the World Anti-Communist League, a private international organization based in Taiwan and headed until September by retired U.S. Army Gen. John K. Singlaub. Nicaraguan rebel leaders have credited Singlaub, who still heads the League's U.S. affiliate, with providing $10 million in supplies and equipment.

Gamble also is a business associate of two Canadians who were identified before congressional committees as having helped provide $10 million last May to finance arms shipments from the United States to Iran.

Denies Iran Link

Gamble, 53, denied any knowledge of the secret U.S. arms sales to Iran in interviews with Canadian reporters last week. He could not be reached Friday and was reportedly out of the country.

Among his other business dealings, Gamble is one of five directors of Vertex Financial Corp. and treasurer of Vertex Investments Ltd., a subsidiary. Ontario records show that Vertex Investments was formed to invest in securities and real estate, to act as a general contractor, developer, building and engineering firm, and to export "goods, wares and merchandise."

Gamble's telephone number in Toronto is the same as that for Vertex Investments. The company closed its office and disconnected its phone last weekend.

Chairman of Vertex Investments is Walter (Ernie) Miller, 55, a wealthy Toronto-based hotel owner and international financier. Miller is a partner in several business ventures in the United States, Vancouver and the Cayman Islands with Donald Fraser, a wealthy Toronto accountant with homes in Monaco and the Cayman Islands.

$10-Million Loan

Roy M. Furmark, a New York businessman, told the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that Fraser and Miller had provided $10 million in interim financing last May to Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian arms dealer who has acknowledged acting as a middleman in four arms sales to Iran. Furmark said he was a consultant to Khashoggi.

Furmark told the panel that he had advised CIA Director William J. Casey in three meetings in October and November that the Canadians were threatening to sue Khashoggi and the United States government because they claimed that they had not been repaid. A lawsuit could have exposed the secret arms deals.

But in a telephone interview with The Times on Friday, Furmark said that he apparently was misinformed. He said that he learned new details when he spoke to Khashoggi Wednesday before briefing Canadian Ambassador Allan Gotlieb.

Quotes Khashoggi's Position

Furmark said that Khashoggi told him he had borrowed the $10 million from a bank in the Cayman Islands and pledged $25 million in stock in a Canadian company called American Barrick Resources Corp. as collateral. He said that Miller and Fraser had "facilitated" the loan but had not provided the money themselves.

"They're his advisers," Furmark said. "They're his financial people. . . . Mr. Khashoggi borrowed the money. They helped him get the loan."

Furmark said he did not know which bank Khashoggi had used or whether Miller and Fraser had guaranteed the loan personally. It is not known whether the transaction was connected to a reported $21 million in loans to Khashoggi between November, 1985, and January, 1986, from Vertex Finances S.A. Both Miller and Fraser are directors of the Cayman Islands firm.

But Furmark told The Globe and Mail in Toronto that it was the bank, not Miller and Fraser, who threatened to sue. And he said it was apparently Khashoggi, not the Canadians, who was threatening to expose the deal.

'Lots of Pressure'

"The bank was putting lots of pressure on Mr. Khashoggi to repay the loan," Furmark said. "And Mr. Khashoggi said that if he's going to be sued for the money, he would then have to include the Americans. So that's how the thing occurred."

But part of Furmark's latest account was disputed by William Birchall, a director of American Barrick, a Toronto-based company active in land development and mineral exploration. He said that Khashoggi does not own any shares in American Barrick.

"Adnan Khashoggi does not have any access to pledge any shares," Birchall said in a telephone interview. "I don't know where or how Furmark got that idea."

Birchall said that Khashoggi's brother, Essam, does hold an interest in American Barrick through a privately held Toronto investment company called Horsham Securities. He said that Essam Khashoggi owns 40% of Horsham, which in turn owns 22% of American Barrick.

Birchall said Horsham is controlled by Toronto businessman Peter Munk. He said Munk would have to give his approval for the Khashoggis to use their interest in the company as collateral.

Denies Knowledge

"The brother is entitled to pledge his shares in Horsham but not without Munk's approval," Birchall said.

In a brief telephone interview with The Times last Saturday, Munk denied knowing Fraser or Miller or having any knowledge of the arms sales. He could not be reached Friday and was reportedly in Switzerland on vacation.

Gamble, a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, was first elected to Parliament in 1979, and was reelected the following year. Considered an extremist by his own party, he campaigned against metric measurements, foreign aid, bilingualism and his party's leader, Joe Clark. He was the only sitting MP to lose his seat in the September, 1984, election.

Joyce Downey, executive director of the U.S. Council for World Freedom, a Phoenix-based affiliate of the World Anti-Communist League, said Gamble sits on the WACL board of directors and is chairman of its Canadian affiliate, the Canadian Freedom Foundation.

Not Sure of Role

"I can't speak to the issue of what his organization does or does not do," said Downey, who last met Gamble in September, 1985, when he spoke at a WACL convention in Dallas. "I just know he is the chairman."

Downey said Miller and Fraser were not members of the WACL group and were unknown to Singlaub. She said Singlaub was out of the country and could not be reached.

She said the WACL groups had provided clothes, medicine, food, several small planes and a refurbished Vietnam-era helicopter to the Nicaraguan rebels. She said the group provides only "humanitarian aid" and denied that it provided military assistance.

Reagan Administration officials initially said groups controlled by Singlaub were behind a weapons-laden C-123 aircraft carrying three American mercenaries that was shot down over southern Nicaragua on Oct. 5. Singlaub denied any role in the arms flight but has acknowledged helping the contras obtain arms outside the United States.

Bob Drogin reported from Washington and Kenneth Freed from Toronto.

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