Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, in an effort to make fund-raising for Nicaragua’s Contras more effective, often tailored a specific need of the rebel forces to match the amount of money that might be requested from a particular donor, North’s federal court trial was told Thursday.
Dan Conrad, an experienced fund-raiser who helped in the effort, testified that North would tell a specific donor at a White House briefing about the need for a small airplane, for example, or a batch of explosives.
But Conrad said that nearly all of the donations were mingled and laundered through two foreign bank accounts and that North never provided reports on how specific contributions were spent.
Asked to Explain Memo
Conrad was asked by associate prosecutor David Zornow to explain his handwritten notation on a 1985 fund-raising memo that read: “Ask Ramsey 32K for C-4.”
He replied that was a reminder for North to tell John Ramsey, a wealthy Texas oil executive who had expressed support for the Contras, that the guerrilla forces needed C-4 explosives costing $32,000. He said Ramsey later contributed $30,000.
Conrad testified that North, then an official with the National Security Council, believed that his federal status prevented him from directly asking for contributions himself. North, thus, would learn from Conrad how much a private donor might be expected to give, then mention a specific Contra need matching that sum, Conrad said.
He said that “the amounts of money were dictated to me” by Carl R. (Spitz) Channell, for whom Conrad worked. Channell, a previous witness who concluded his testimony earlier Thursday, founded the conservative National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty, a tax-exempt foundation used to solicit donations for the Contras.
Channell pleaded guilty in April, 1987, to conspiracy to defraud the United States of taxes by misusing his foundation’s tax-exemption for this purpose. He is awaiting sentencing.
Conrad said that North made a mistake in approaching Texas financier Nelson Bunker Hunt with a catalogue of military items needed by the Contras--including airplanes, ammunition, guns and uniforms--that totaled $7 million. “We had asked Col. North to make up a list that totaled $5 million--the maximum we felt we could get from Mr. Hunt,” Conrad told the jury.
As it developed, Hunt contributed less than $500,000.
Because funding the Contras was a “covert operation” by North, Conrad said the private donations were passed through several bank accounts to conceal their origin. He said that Channell’s foundation received them, then made payments in like amounts to a Washington consulting firm, International Business Communications, headed by an associate.
IBC then sent payments to IC Inc., a secret bank account in the Cayman Islands. IC forwarded the money to a Swiss account, Lake Resources, which “paid out the money to various suppliers for goods for the Contras,” Conrad testified.
Willingness to Lie
Earlier Thursday, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., North’s attorney, attacked the credibility of Channell, who had testified Wednesday that he had heard North tell Hunt in 1985: “I don’t care if I have to go to jail for this (or) if I have to lie to Congress about this.”
Congress then had prohibited U.S. government aid to the Contras and North was denying to congressional committees that he was helping the rebel forces.