Contra Cash Pick-up Just Like a Movie Scene, Owen Testifies

From a Times Staff Writer

Robert W. Owen, testifying before congressional committees investigating the Iran- contra affair on his efforts to help Lt. Col. Oliver L. North assist the Nicaraguan rebels, said that one assignment led him to a Chinese market in Manhattan and was "more movie set than real life."

Owen told House deputy counsel W. Neil Eggleston of a trip he took in September, 1985, on North's instructions, to get cash for the contra effort. "I flew up to New York and I took a cab down to the lower West Side, and I was instructed to go to a corner Chinese market," he said.

Owen said that retired Air Force Gen. Richard V. Secord provided the name of the contact at the market and "in essence, a code to use when I went and approached the person." The contact then "walked behind the counter . . . rolled up his pant leg and pulled out a wad of $100 bills" that amounted to $9,500, he added.

Owen said he returned to Washington, met Secord in the lobby of the Sheraton Carlton hotel and gave him the cash folded inside a newspaper.

Later, under questioning by Rep. Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.), Owen said: "Quite frankly, when I was approached in the Chinese market, I looked around and I was wondering where the cameras were. I said, 'This is more movie set than it is real life.' "

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