Newspaper says Secord Ordered Portuguese Arms for Contras With AM-US-Iran-Contra Week, Bjt
LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ A Lisbon newspaper said Saturday a company owned by retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard Secord ordered arms from Portugal that were supplied to Contra rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government.
The Expresso newspaper, an independent weekly, said arms ordered by Secord’s Energy Resources International company were part of more than $8 million worth of weapons and ammunition supplied to the Contras by Portuguese arms manufacturers from 1984 to 1986.
Portugal also has been used as a transit point for shipments of Israeli and Eastern bloc arms to the rebels in Nicaragua, according to the newspaper. Several sources previously had mentioned Portugal as a key center for the purchase of Contra weapons from international arms dealers.
A Reagan administration source has told The Associated Press that Secord acted as ″executive agent″ to North in setting up air transport to supply the Contras, with expenses paid for out of profits from Iranian arms sales. The source spoke in Washington on the condition of not being identified.
Secord, an associate of U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, has declined to testify before Congress about Iran arms sales and Contra aid, invoking the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, and has declined all public comment.
The Expresso said the sale of Portuguese arms to the Contras was made through a Lisbon-based company called Defex Portugal that specializes in the import and export of military goods.
It said end-user certificates Defex presented to the Portuguese government showed the arms were destined for Guatemala. But they were in fact handed over to the U.S.-backed guerrillas in Nicaragua, the paper said.
Calls to Defex by The Associated Press were answered by a recorded message Saturday. No one was available to comment at the defense or foreign ministries.
Expresso said it confirmed in Lisbon that a Guatemalan army general, Cesar Caseras Rojas, signed some of the end-user certificates.
CBS previously reported that Secord’s company ordered 10,000 rifles, 10,000 hand grenades and five tons of explosives from Defex in February 1985, presenting documents listing Guatemala as their destination, according to Expresso.
The newspaper, quoting well-informed sources in Lisbon, said it confirmed these orders were made. It reported slight discrepancies in the quantities of weapons reported by CBS and its own information.
Portugal sold 1,900 tons of arms and ammunition worth $8.3 million to the Contras from 1984 to October 1986, Expresso said.
It said Portuguse arms companies sold only 14 tons of weapons to the rebels in 1984. But sales grew to more than 1,500 tons in 1985, after Congress halted official U.S. military aid for Contras, the paper said.
Expresso said Portuguese companies last year sent 103 tons of grenandes, 158 tons of ammunition and five tons of explosives to what it called ″the Central American guerrillas″ apparently referring to the Contras. It said the figures referred to arms made in Portugal or documented as such.
The newspaper said 15 flights carrying arms bought in Israel for the Nicaraguan rebels that passed through Lisbon airport in 1986 were among an undetermined number of such shipments that went through Portugal.
It quoted unidentified defense ministry sources as arms for the Contras from unspecified Eastern bloc countries also passed through Lisbon airport. The sources said the destination of these shipments was officially listed as Guatemala. In fact, the arms arms went to Ilopango in El Salvador, from whence they were delivered to the rebels, Expresso said.
Expresso quoted a Defense Ministry spokesman, not identified, as saying the law had been rigorously observed in all arms exports from Portugal. Exporters to countries outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have to present an end-user certificate in which the importing country undertakes to be the sole user of the arms.
Arms exports must be approved by both the foreign and defense ministries.