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Grand Jury Subpoenas Aircraft Maker’s Records

December 4, 1986

MOULTRIE, Ga. (AP) _ A federal grand jury and a U.S. Senate committee have subpoenaed the records of Maule Aircraft Corp. on four airplanes, including one reportedly sold to Nicaraguan rebels by a firm headed by retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord.

Billy Fallin, an attorney for the Moultrie-based airplane manufacturing company, said Thursday he did not know why the company’s records were subpoenaed.

″I’m not concerned about any wrongdoing on our part,″ he said.

Fallin said the records subpoenaed by the U.S. attorney’s office in Macon and the Senate Intelligence Committee included bills of sale, payment instructions and records of telephone calls between Maule and the buyers.

The records were turned over to the federal grand jury in Macon on Wednesday and on Thursday to the Senate committee, which is investigating how profits from the sale of U.S. arms to Iran were diverted to anti-government rebels in Nicaragua.

U.S. Attorney Joe Whitley in Macon declined comment on the grand jury probe.

B.D. Maule, who has built the short takeoff and landing planes since 1968, said Thursday he was told the planes would be used by missionaries to transport sick and injured people in Latin America.

″They said it was for missionary work,″ said Maule, 75. ″We did not know what country they were going to, but they were going down there somewhere.″

Featuring high power-to-weight ratios, high-lift wings and conventional landing gear, his planes are ideal for landings on fields 600 to 700 feet long in areas lacking modern runways.

His assembly line is located in a hanger at Spence Field, an abandoned military airbase on the outskirts of Moultrie, in southwest Georgia.

In an interview this summer with The Moultrie Observer, Maule said a retired Air Force general had agreed to purchase three or four planes about two years ago. He declined to identify the former general, but said the pilots who picked up the planes were not Americans.

A Justice Department official told the Washington Post that federal officials in Georgia have not determined whether any laws were violated. The official said the U.S. attorney’s office in Macon decided on its own to examine the records and that the request is not part of the formal Washington- based probe into the diversion of money from Iranian arms sales to aid the Contras fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua.

The U.S. Customs Service, which is responsible for enforcing export- licensing laws for weapons, is examining the Maule sales and may have turned to the U.S. attorney’s office for help, according to the Justice official quoted by the Post.

Fallin told The Associated Press that Maule sold the aircraft to four U.S. corporations, which he declined to identify.

″We didn’t deliver the aircraft,″ he said. ″We just sold them. Where the airplanes went is not part of our package. ... They were picked up by the purchasers and they flew off into the sunset. Maule had no control over where they went.″

Secord, once a top Defense Department official for the Middle East, is said to have played a key role in guiding the secret Contra air resupply operation that was disclosed in October when a C123K cargo plane was downed over Nicaragua, leading to the capture and trial of American Eugene Hasenfus by Nicaragua. Three other men aboard the plane were killed.

It also has been suggested in published reports that Secord may have played a role in the secret U.S. arms sales to Iran.

At the time of the resupply, the U.S. government was barred from giving military aid to the Contras, and the White House role in the operation is a principal focus of congressional investigations.

Secord has said a firm of which he is a member sold the Maule last year for $49,000 to Contras after a fund-raiser said that Contra leader Adolfo Calero needed small planes. Secord has said he proposed selling it to Calero because one of his partners was losing interest in the plane.

Secord said he understood that the Contras later bought other Maules, ″but not through me.″

Records of the Federal Aviation Administration indicate the plane sold by Secord’s group to the Contras was first purchased in July 1984 by American Marketing and Consulting Inc. At the time, Secord was listed as president and Ribert H. Lilac, a former National Security Council official, was listed as vice president, the Post reported.

An Oct. 7, 1985, letter from Maule Air to the FAA recording the sale of a second plane said a copy of the letter was being sent to ″Dick Secord.″ The plane was exported to Panama, the letter said.

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