Pakistani Claims He Was Part Of Hostage Dealings
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) _ A Pakistani arms dealer is asking the State Department to review his case, claiming he was helping the United States swap arms for American hostages held in Lebanon when he was arrested.
Arif Durrani, 37, was arrested Oct. 3, 1986 by U.S. Customs Service agents and charged with illegally exporting Hawk missile parts intended for Iran. Since then, he has been held without bond at the state jail in New Haven, Conn.
Durrani said he arranged shipment of missile parts after meetings with representatives of the CIA and National Security Council, including an individual he believes to have been Lt. Col. Oliver L. North.
North, a staff deputy with the NSC, was fired after revelations of clandestine U.S. arms sales to Iran and diversions of proceeds to Nicaraguan rebels.
Durrani’s statements on his case were made in an affidavit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court here. The affidavit was in support of a motion seeking dismissal of the charge against him.
The affidavit was the first statement from Durrani since his arrest on a charge that he shipped $22,000 worth of missile parts through New York.
U.S. Attorney Stanley A. Twardy said Thursday he referred Durrani’s allegations to Lawrence E. Walsh, the independent counsel appointed to investigate Iran arms controversy. Twardy also said his office would continue with the case and file response briefs by Feb. 18.
″I said earlier there is no evidence that he was acting on behalf of the government, I stand by that,″ Twardy said. ″We are taking seriously and appropriately his allegations.″
Ira B. Grudberg, Durrani’s attorney, said he wants the court to ″invite the views of the State Department on the issues″ of foreign policy. He said the request was made in accordance with a recent 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in another case.
U.S. District Judge T.F. Gilroy Daly, who has been assigned Durrani’s case, refused comment. State Department spokeswoman Debbie Cavin said she couldn’t comment on the motion.
The government is continuing to collect information on Durrani and his arms dealings, according to a motion to quash grand jury subpoenas and suppress evidence gathered by the grand jury. The documents indicate that Durrani’s wife was to submit evidence or testify before the grand jury Wednesday and that Durrani is due to testify on March 4.
The Pakistani arms dealer said he was on a business trip in the Far East in September 1986 when he received an urgent message to meet a U.S. government contact in Lisbon, Portugal. Durrani said the contact worked for either the CIA or National Security Council.
″I was told at that meeting for the first time of the urgency in obtaining the (Hawk missile) parts, which I was told were part of the package for freeing American hostages held in Lebanon,″ Durrani said in the affidavit.
Durrani said the Hawk parts he was asked to obtain were needed to replace defective parts shipped by the United States through Israel to Iran. He said he immediately returned to Danbury, Conn., where he tried to persuade Radio Research Instrument Inc. to speed up its delivery. The deal was proving difficult because he lacked an export license, Durrani said.
Durrani said his difficulties led to three meetings with a man named ″Mr. White″ in London in September 1986. He said he has since learned the man was North. He said a representative of the Anglican Church also attended at least one meeting.
″At that (first) meeting American officials urged me to quickly obtain parts,″ Durrani said. ″I was told that President Reagan would sign orders ... to authorize shipments of arms to Iran. I was told by Mr. White not to worry about the paperwork.″
Grudberg said part of Durrani’s defense will be that he was entrapped by federal officials into making the illegal shipment.
North has refused, either directly or through his lawyer, to comment substantively on the Reagan administration’s arms dealings. The CIA refused to comment.
Durrani apparently is a well-connected arms dealer. He owns a $2 million home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and was in the process of obtaining his U.S. citizenship when arrested. Durrani operated Merex Inc., a company in Newbury Park, Calif., which sold aircraft components. Members of his family in Pakistan are arms dealers, according to prosecutors.
In the affidavit, Durrani revealed details of other Iranian arms shipments that apparently had U.S. blessing. He said some of the arms came from U.S. military bases in the United States and Europe, and also from NATO supplies.
The administration has acknowledged government sales of arms to Iran totaling in the range of $12 million to $42 million.
Durrani claimed that an arms merchant, who dealt with the CIA through International Air Tours of Nigeria Ltd., made $6 million for attempting to free American hostage William Buckley.
Vice President George Bush recently confirmed that Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut, had been killed.
Durrani said the arms dealer fled Belgium with the $6 million.
Among the deals Durrani mentioned was one involving Richard V. Secord, a retired Air Force major general whose invovlement in the Iran arms deals has been widely reported.
Durrani claimed that Secord shipped radar tubes to Iran at the price of $250,000 apiece. He said the money from the sales was deposited in Secord’s Swiss bank account by Iran. Durrani didn’t say how much money Secord allegedly collected in the deal, and Secord has refused to testify before committees of Congress, citing his Fifth Amendment rights.
Durrani further claimed that Secord made shipments, including TOW missiles, to Iran directly from military stocks at the Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The Pakistani said that a $40 million letter of credit from the Sedrat Bank, an Iranian bank in Frankfurt, was issued to cover the TOW missile shipment.