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Bahamian Prime Minister Seeks Probe of Former US Attorney

September 22, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling says former U.S. Attorney Robert Merkle knowingly used false testimony in a criminal probe involving allegations that Pindling had accepted bribes from drug traffickers.

Justice Department spokesman Loye Miller declined comment Thursday on Pindling’s accusations, contained in a letter the Bahamian government said was delivered to U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. It calls for appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Merkle, the former U.S. attorney in Tampa, Fla., for prosecutorial misconduct.

A three-page statement describing the letter was made available to the news media by the Bahamian embassy in Washington.

The letter by an attorney for Pindling, Ira Dement, says Merkle ″used perjured evidence, knowing it to be false or not caring whether it was true or untrue, seeming for political gain.″ Merkle was defeated in a Florida primary election earlier this month in a bid for a U.S. Senate seat.

Convicted drug smuggler George William Baron testified under questioning by Merkle earlier this year at the trial of Colombian drug dealer Carlos Lehder that in 1980, he paid Pindling $400,000 in cash in a Paradise Island casino in the presence of Lady Pindling, Tourism Minister Clement Maynard, Mrs. Maynard and many others. Merkle opened a grand jury probe of Pindling.

Dement said testimony by Baron and Gorman Bannister alleging official complicity in drug smuggling was easily refutable, but that Merkle made no effort to check out their stories. In May 1988, Merkle was advised by Pindling’s personal attorney, F. Lee Bailey, that Bannister and Baron were lying, said Dement.

Bailey offered Merkle the full cooperation of the prime minister, said Dement, who added that Bailey is prepared to testify that Merkle ″promised an expeditious conclusion″ of his probe. Merkle used Baron’s groundless recitation again, only a month later, in the trial of Robert Castoro without making an effort to verify his testimony, said Dement.

The statement made available to the news media said Dement sent Thornburgh documentation showing that the Pindlings were in Africa when the payoff allegedly was made. Dement said the prime minister and Deputy Prime Minister Clement Maynard have indicated they are willing to cooperate in an investigation of the allegations of Banister and Baron and the lack of effort by Merkle to review the evidence of that falsity.

In an interview in Thursday editions of the New York Times, Merkle was quoted as saying that ″Sir Lynden is full of hot air″ and that his investigation was handled in accord with Justice Department rules.

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