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WASHINGTON--Fired White House aide Oliver L. North participated behind the scenes in an April 1985 dinner to aid Nicaraguan refugees that netted only $1000 to help refugees but paid more than $100,000 to "consultants," according to documents and sources.
Documents on the April 15 dinner, obtained by The Associated Press, show one of its chief organizers reporting to North on plans for raising money, including a suggestion that the sultan of Brunei "might kick in a million dollars."
Although it is not clear what came of the Brunei suggestion, U.S. officials said last week that the State Department persuaded the sultan of the oil-rich Asian kingdom to donate millions of dollars to Nicaraguan Contra rebels this year. The Los Angeles Times said the money went through a Swiss bank account controlled by North.
The newly obtained documents show that North participated in pro-Contra fund-raising at least as early as 1984. Last year, the AP reported that North developed a plan in early 1984 to enlist third countries and private individuals to aid the Contras in the face of congressional opposition. White House sources said President Reagan gave oral approval for that plan.
Two sources have told the AP that the Nicaraguan Refugee Fund was started in mid-1984 through a secret agreement between the Miner and Fraser Public Affairs Inc. and the Contras' Washington-based corporate arm, the Nicaraguan Development Council.
Letters from Edie Fraser, Miner and Fraser president, to North, suggest that he participated in detailed decisions about the fund.
One letter, dated December 27, 1984, and signed by Fraser, said, "I look forward to getting with you on January 3 or 4 regarding the Nicaraguan Refugee Fund and the proposed plan."
A December 28, 1984, "personal and confidential" memo from Fraser to North notes that the sultan of Brunei had given $500,000 to a drug program favored by first lady Nancy Reagan and states: "Naturally, it has been recommended that he might kick in a million dollars of that for the refugees for Central America."
Sources said North played a behind-the-scenes role in arranging the April 15 dinner.
North was fired from President Reagan's National Security Council staff on November 25 after Attorney General Edwin Meese III said North knew about profits being diverted from secret Iranian arms sales to the Contras this year. Before his firing, the White House consistently denied that North raised money for the Contras.
North has refused to testify before Congress, citing his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Fraser failed to return telephone calls to her office.
The Nicaraguan Refugee Fund sponsored the April 15, 1985, dinner, featuring a speech by Reagan, that took in $219,525 for refugees. However, an internal audit by the fund showed costs totaling $218,376, including $116,938 in consulting fees and $71,163 to feed the nearly 700 people at the dinner.
Little more than $1000 went to transport aid to Nicaraguan refugees.
According to the fund's records, the largest consultant fee--$50,000--went to Miner and Fraser. Another $10,000 went to Daniel Conrad, a fundraiser for the National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty, a conservative group that North reportedly assisted in preparing pro-Contra television commercials.
In an angry exchange of letters following the dinner, Michael Schoor, a lawyer for the refugee fund, told Carl Russell "Spitz" Channel, the endowment's president, that the fund had not received promised contributions from the endowment and would "contact directly those persons who you identified as your donors and from which funds have not been identified as being received."
J. Curtis Herge, an endowment lawyer, responded, attacking the refugee fund letter as "untruthful, disparaging and slanderous" and threatening unspecified legal action if direct contact was made.
Channel did not return telephone calls about his role in the refugee fund.
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