Menu JTA Search

Behind the Headlines a Controversial Case

Paul Grand, attorney for Samuel Evans, the accused middleman in an alleged conspiracy to supply some $2.5 billion worth of American weapons to Iran, has attempted to piece together the puzzle of how this case originated, in an affidavit to support a joint motion by defense lawyers in the case to dismiss the charges.

Four Israelis are among 17 defendants charged in the case with wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to resell American-made weapons to Iran from existing arsenals in Israel and three other countries.

A hearing on the motion in the U.S. district Court in Manhattan scheduled for Monday was postponed for a week. In that hearing, a federal judge is expected to rule on the motion to dismiss the charges on grounds of entrapment, prejudicial pretrial publicity and lack of jurisdiction for the case in New York

Based on extensive interviews with most of the defendants in custody and on the 200 tapes which the government has produced as evidence of the conspiracy, Grand offered the following account of how the case emerged.

THE CASE UNFOLDS

Cyrus Hashemi, the government’s informant and key witness in the case who posed as an Iranian arms buyer, first came to the attention of U.S. officials when he volunteered to help President Jimmy Carter negotiate the release of American hostages in Teheran in 1980.

Hashemi had a certain credibility because he was the cousin of the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Hojatolislam Hashemi Rafsanjani, a close aide of Ayatollah Khomeini.

While in New York from November 1980 to January 1981, FBI surveillance of his office in the city disclosed that “While Hashemi was purporting to negotiate the release of the hostages, he his two brothers (Reza and Jamsheed) and others were successfully transporting American military equipment to Iran in violation of American law,” Grand wrote in his affidavit.

The U.S. Department of Justice secretly indicted Hashemi and his two brothers in 1984. He was one of the 10 most wanted arms smugglers in the United States. But he never faced those charges because he lived in London. In February of this year, Hashemi returned to the U.S. after he struck a deal with the U.S. Attorney’s office. At that time, he agreed to act as a government informant and ask certain defendants to come to American to do their negotiating.

In 1985, Hashemi met Evans, a London-based lawyer, and retained Evans to advise him on among other matters, a joint venture with Adnan Khashoggi — a Saudi Arabian arms dealer believed to be one of the richest men in the world.

Evans was Khashoggi’s lawyer for more than 10 years but managed his financial affairs and not his arms deals. Khashoggi had a separate marketing company and legal counsel for the arms trade.

AIM OF THE JOINT VENTURE

The joint venture between Khashoggi and Hashemi was aimed at supplying, among other things, arms to Iran for its war with Iraq. Hashemi then asked Evans to help him find suppliers of American weapons for the Iranian government. Evans asked Nicos Minardos, now a co-defendant in the case and a business associate of Khashoggi’s, to help in the search for suppliers.

Minardos contacted the Israelis named in the case — Guri Eisenberg and his father Israel Eisenberg, retired Brig. Gen. Avraham Bar-Am and William Northrop, who claims he is related by adoption to the Northrop defense contractors and aircraft manufacturing family.

The Eisenbergs and Bar Am negotiated as a group with Hashemi, and Northrop, a temporary resident of Israel, negotiated separately with Hashemi for certain spare parts which he had access to in his business.

The Israelis offered to sell items listed on an Israeli Ministry of Defense Munitions List, a catalogue of sorts of surplus military equipment up for sale. The list included American-made weapons and spare parts.

In one tape, Evans told Hashemi the Eisenbergs were offering equipment on the Munitions List under the belief that the sales would be approved by the U.S. government.

“The defendants repeatedly expressed their belief to Hashemi that Israel would not commit political and economic suicide by selling this quantity of American-made arms to Iran without prior United States approval,” Grand wrote in his affidavit.

FURTHER CONTACTS MADE

Evans also contacted two other defendants in efforts to find suppliers for Hashemi. Bernard Veillot and John de la Rogue, although named in the indictment, have not been arrested and are thought to be living somewhere in France today.

De la Rogue told Evans he was a U.S. Army Colonel, once affiliated with the Delta Force, a top-secret anti-terrorism unit, and said he was a long-time personal friend of Gen. P.X. Kelley, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. Two U.S. Customs agents working with Hashemi corroborated de la Roque’s military background.

Veillot and de la Roque were partners and told Hashemi that they were taking orders from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Kelley, according to Grand’s affidavit. Veillot told Hashemi “the U.S. could not afford for this proposed transaction to become publicly known.”

Evans told Hashemi in February that Veillot met with Vice President George Bush’s aides in West Germany and had received the approval to proceed with the deal. On the tape, Evans said “the long and short of it according to (Veillot) is that the green light now finally has been given, that Bush is in favor, (Secretary of State George) Shultz against, but nevertheless they are, they are willing to proceed.”

It is unclear at exactly what point Hashemi decided to turn government informant, but it appears to have happened shortly after he met some of the defendants but before the initial meeting in Paris in December, 1985.

Hashemi also offered to sweeten the deal with promises of millions of dollars of profits for the defendants and even promised the Israeli defendants he would make efforts to obtain the release of four Israeli prisoners of war assumed to be captives in Lebanon. The Eisenbergs gave the list to Evans and told him the Israeli government would go to any length to obtain the prisoners’ release.

In the affidavit, Grand questions the jurisdiction of the United States courts in the case because all of the defendants lived in Europe or Israel and conducted all their business in foreign countries.

Grand asserts that the U.S. government “manufactured” jurisdiction by asking Hashemi to come to New York and suggesting he invite some of the defendants for meetings in the United States, with the intent to cause the defendants to commit crimes on U.S. soil. Furthermore, once in New York, Hashemi’s phone lines were tapped and the defendants who never came to American were nevertheless charged with using a telephone to commit a crime.

Evans and the Israelis refused to come to the U.S. after the Israel intelligence warned them against it, according to Grand’s affidavit. But they agreed to meet Hashemi in Bermuda and that is where they were arrested in a cooperative effort of the American and Bermudian governments.

Grand also states that prejudicial pretrial publicity would make an impartial trial impossible, noting that on the day of the arrests of the Bermuda five, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Rudolph Giuliani and U.S. Customs Commissioner William Von Raab read a prepared statement calling the accused the “brokers of death.” The statement, which was picked up by all the major national media, said the weapons would have gone to terrorists and the arrest was a great victory in the fight against terrorism.

(Tomorrow: Part Three)

NEXT STORY