July 1, 2010 -- Facts back Noriega's claim that drug money laundering network was CIA "imaginary banking scheme"
Facts matter and the contention of 76-year old former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega in a French court room that the drug money laundering network he stands accused of profiting from was a U.S.-developed "imaginary banking scheme" is backed by mountains of evidence collected during the multiple investigations of U.S. covert activities during the 1980s in Latin America of which the Iran-contra scandal was an important subset.
Noriega denies that payments made to his accounts in France came from Colombian drug cartels and maintains that the cash came from his own businesses and the CIA. It is widely believed that Noriega, who faces ten years in jail in France if convicted, is being kept in prison as the result of a secret deal between the Bush family and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who, himself, has been charged with being the recipient of laundered cash from the multi-billion dollar Clearstream financial contrivance in Luxembourg.
On March 22, 2006, WMR reported: "According to informed sources in Washington, former Panamanian President Manuel Noriega, considered a legal "prisoner of war" by the United States, will be released from a Federal prison in Miami in May. Noriega is presently serving a 98-year sentence for homicide, drug trafficking, and corruption. He has also been sentenced in absentia in Panama to a 60-year sentence. In 2004, the Federal judge who sentenced Noriega recommended that due to his advancing age and conversion to Baptist, he be paroled. However, informed sources report that negotiations are taking place between Panama, the United States, and France to have Noriega extradited to face criminal charges in France. Panama reportedly has agreed to allow the United States to extradite Noriega to France. The primary supporters of Noriega's continued imprisonment are President Martin Torrijos, the son of Panama's pre-Noriega dictator Omar Torrijos; First Vice President Samuel Lewis Navarro; and Panamanian ambassador to the U.S. Federico A. Humbert Arias. All three are reportedly close to right-wing GOP circles in the Bush administration, including the Cuban-American rightists in the GOP, as well as Bush-connected businesses, including Halliburton and Wachovia Bank.
The word is that Panama and the United States would prefer to have France give Noriega, who is now 72, a ten-year sentence with the hope that he will die in a French prison thus extricating the Bush administration from having the ex-president, jailed by Bush's father, from dying on U.S. soil -- a potential embarrassment to the U.S. in a Latin America that is now awash in anti-American fervor. In 2004, Noriega suffered a minor stroke.
However, there are also those in Panama and Latin America who are pressing for Noriega to be allowed to go into exile in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez wants to permit the former Panamanian President and one-time close ally of the United States and CIA to freely reveal everything he knows about the involvement of President George H. W. Bush and leading Reagan and Bush I officials in drug and weapons trafficking and money laundering involving the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and other corporate entities."
A CIA source who was involved in the Iran-contra operations in Central America told WMR that then-President George H. W. Bush removed Noriega from power in 1989's OPERATION JUST CAUSE after it was discovered that Noriega-linked planes transporting drugs from Colombia were competing with Bush's own drug smuggling operations from that country. The CIA source actually witnessed Noriega's planes unloading drugs alongside CIA contract planes at Tucuman Airport in Panama City.
In 1986, one U.S. senator stated: ". . . we can produce specific law enforcement officials who will tell you that they have been called off drug trafficking investigations because the CIA is involved or because it would threaten national security." That senator was John Kerry, now the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry now remains mum on Noriega's charges that are the very same charges Kerry made in the 1980s and often repeated -- between downing bottles of Corona -- to bemused bar patrons at a Mexican restaurant on Capitol Hill.
Shipments of cocaine were flown by CIA C-130 Hercules Southern Air Transport contractor airplanes from the Jorge Ochoa cartel in Barranquilla, Colombia to airports in Panama and other locations in the region, including Ilopango airbase in El Salvador and secret air strips in northern Costa Rica controlled by a CIA operative and local rancher named John Hull and Nicaraguan contra-controlled air strips in Honduras. Some of Kerry's information came from an FBI confidential informant named "Wanda Doe," a U.S. citizen married to a Colombian narcotics trafficker. The FBI confirmed "Doe's" information. Other information came to Kerry from Fort Lauderdale drug kingpin George Morales, a CIA pass-through operative with the drug cartels, and a convicted drug trafficker named Michael Tolliver. Yet additional information was passed to Kerry by Hull's assistant, a man known only by the name "David." After David was exposed as a result of a leak to the CIA, he was tortured at Hull's Costa Rica ranch and murdered.
Hull reported directly to National Security Council officer Lt. Col. Oliver North, who, in turn, reported to Vice President George H. W. Bush and CIA director William Casey. Another source for Kerry was Drug Enforcement Administration informant Barry Seal. Seal was assassinated gangland-style in 1986 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In the trunk of Seal's Cadillac was found the personal phone number of Vice President Bush. Seal had provided invaluable information on the links between the Medellin cartel, the CIA, and cocaine smuggling operations involving Arkansas's Mena airfield, an operation that was known to and supported by the Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton.
Kerry was also aware that, according to Aziz Rehman, a BCCI Miami branch bank officer, Jeb Bush was intimately involved in the late 1980s with laundering drug money for the CIA's Latin American operations. After millions of dollars of cocaine money were deposited in BCCI accounts in various Miami banks, the money was transferred to BCCI banks in Panama and the Cayman Islands. It was from these accounts that Noriega was handsomely paid for his cooperation with the CIA drug smuggling activities.
One of Jeb Bush's fronts for paying off CIA operatives like Noriega was IntrAmerica Investments, which owned a building at 1390 Brickell Avenue in Miami. Bush's business partner was Armando Codina, a wealthy right-wing member of the Cuban exile community and chair of the 1980 George H.W. Bush Florida presidential campaign. Codina was also one of the disputed 25 electors from Florida who cast his vote for George W. Bush in the 2000 Electoral College. Codina was again an elector who voted for Bush 43 in 2004.
Noriega's charge that the CIA laundered drug trafficking proceeds is backed by evidence that the CIA used fugitive investment banker Robert Vesco to carry out the laundering activities. Columnist Jack Anderson exposed many links between the CIA and drug money laundering. Attempts by the Reagan administration to pin drug smuggling on the Nicaraguan Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega, as well as Cuban President Fidel Castro were rejected by CIA deputy director Richard Kerr, according to Anderson.
Noriega, like Seal, "David," "Wanda Doe" [who went into hiding after being exposed], is expected to die in a French jail without ever revealing the criminal activities of Bush 41 and his CIA cronies. Sarkozy has been enlisted to insure that Noriega never reveals any details that would implicate the Reagan and Bush administrations, as well as the CIA, in drug smuggling.