Albert A. Hakim, the Iranian-born former Silicon Valley businessman who was a central figure in the Reagan administration’s Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, has died. He was 66.
Hakim died Friday of a heart attack in Inchon, South Korea, where he moved a few years ago with his second wife, Soony Oh, to be near her aging parents.
Charged with five felony counts of conspiracy to illegally divert funds to the Nicaraguan Contras and theft of government property for his part in the affair, Hakim pleaded guilty in 1989 to a single misdemeanor count of making an illegal payment to a U.S. government employee. Specifically, he admitted paying for a $13,800 security fence for Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North’s home in suburban Virginia.
Hakim, who also agreed to abandon his claim to share $7.3 million in profits from the arms sales to Iran for use in its war against Iraq, was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $5,000 fine.
Even though he never went to prison, he said the scandal ruined his career. He declared bankruptcy in 1996 and lost his expensive Los Gatos, Calif., home to foreclosure.
Hakim and his wife moved to Los Angeles briefly and then to Inchon, where he started an English-language school and continued to wheel and deal in international business circles.
In the 1980s, he worked with North and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord, who joined the board of Hakim’s Stanford Technology Trading Corp. Hakim set up foreign bank accounts for North’s covert operations, which included the sale of missiles and other weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages in Lebanon.
North used some of the profits from the Iranian weapons sales to provide arms and supplies to the Contras trying to overthrow the Marxist-led Sandinista government of Nicaragua, in violation of congressional limits on U.S. aid to the guerrillas.
One source told The Times in 1986 that “North’s two biggest functionaries were Secord, who handled operational details, and Hakim, who handled the financial details.”
A U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report in 1987 said Hakim had been the first to suggest that profits from arms sales be given to the Contras, and that he was a key figure in moving money from Iran to the rebels.
Although eight people were charged and the scandal clouded President Reagan’s second term, independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh never directly linked Reagan to any illegal behavior.
Karen L. Hawkins, an Oakland lawyer and Hakim’s friend and business attorney since 1986, told the San Jose Mercury News after his death that Hakim, a naturalized U.S. citizen, became involved in the scheme as a patriotic act.
At Hakim’s sentencing Feb. 1, 1990, in Washington, U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell praised him for personally negotiating the October 1986 release of American hostage David P. Jacobsen, who was held in Beirut.
The judge told Hakim that Jacobsen’s release “was the result of your conduct, not the result of others who have taken credit for it.”
Hawkins said Hakim was quite proud of the role he was able to play in gaining the hostage’s freedom.
She said the criminal charges damaged Hakim’s health as well as his wealth.
Yet at the time of the Iran-Contra scandal, various Times sources disputed any assertion that Hakim got involved because of feelings either for his adopted country or his native Iran.
“He’s not going to do anything for patriotism. Anything he did, he did to make money,” Anthony S. Musladin, Hakim’s business partner from 1974 to 1981, told The Times in 1987. He described Hakim as a flashy dresser with unbuttoned shirts and lots of jewelry, an entrepreneur who “always had such a deal for you ... a pleasant guy, not stupid. Very polite, charming. You end up liking the guy.” Musladin added that Hakim proved less than ideal as a business partner, because “he couldn’t sit still, couldn’t focus.”
Hakim, born to wealthy parents in Tehran under the reign of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, came to the United States in 1955 to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He spoke French, English and Persian and reportedly charmed other students, but did not keep up with his tough electrical engineering major.
In 1958, the Immigration and Naturalization Service deported him because he had failed to attend the requisite number of classes.
In Iran, Hakim rose in business, relying on personal contacts, long lunches and payoffs.
He paid $2,000 to more than $20,000 to Iranian officials who were involved in contract procurement, he said in a deposition in a 1983 Connecticut suit over a deal in which he arranged a $23-million contract for Olin Corp.'s Winchester Arms Division. “I was wheeling, I was dealing,” he said in the court papers.
In the 1970s, Hakim sold medical supplies to the military and eavesdropping equipment to Savak, the shah’s secret police, to spy on the Iranian military. He was Iranian sales agent for such American companies as Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, General Electric and Aydin Corp. In 1976, he grossed $15 million in commissions.
It was during that period that he met Secord, then a colonel who headed U.S. advisors to the Iranian air force. Hakim traded intelligence about Iran to U.S. contacts in exchange for help with American military contracts.
With the fall of the shah Jan. 16, 1979, Hakim lost a home in Tehran, a summer home on the Caspian Sea and lucrative contracts with the Iranian military.
By March of that year, he had been granted permanent residency in the U.S. and by April he had bought his hilltop Los Gatos mansion.
He married Oh in 1982. Hakim became a U.S. citizen in 1984, as soon as he was eligible.
He is survived by his wife and by two daughters from an earlier marriage, Monica H. Bowman of Santa Cruz and Jessica Hakim of Capitola, Calif.; and two grandchildren; as well as a large extended family in the Los Angeles area.
Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. today at Eden Memorial Park, 11500 Sepulveda Blvd., in Mission Hills.