Congressional investigators are trying to determine whether the reported theft of files from a Danish shipping agent has added another dimension to their probe of secret weapons sales to Iran and funding for the Nicaraguan rebels, sources said.
Disclosure of the theft and a suspicion that the burglary might have been carried out with the assistance of a foreign intelligence service has provided investigators with a new international angle in the complicated Iran-contra affair.The shipping agent, Thomas Parlow, has told Copenhagen police that files on weapons deliveries he made for a network supplying Nicaraguan rebels set up by Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North were taken from his home in March, sources said.
Mr. Parlow has acknowledged that he worked for Albert Hakim, a businessman, and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard Secord in shipping Polish and Portuguese weapons to Honduras on a ship called the Erria.
A company identified with Mr. Hakim and lawyer Willard Zucker, who set up a Swiss bank account that handled profits from the Iranian weapons sale, bought the Erria last April and used it to transport weapons and twice to stand by the Lebanon coast to pick up hostages who were never released, congressional investigators said.
Mr. Parlow told police that the thieves passed up valuable watches and jewelry and took only the files, which related to 1985 weapons shipments paid for by two of Lt. Col. North's closest associates, Maj. Gen. Secord and Mr. Hakim, sources said.
Two congressional committees and independent counsel Lawrence Walsh are trying to determine whether Maj. Gen. Secord and Mr. Hakim paid Mr. Parlow with money diverted from weapons sales to Iran.
One investigator speculated that the theft of Mr. Parlow's files could have been the work of a foreign intelligence agency. But he declined to discuss which countries might have been interested in the material.
The Senate committee also is thought to be examining whether the Copenhagen burglary is related to a reported theft of files from the office of Mr. Hakim's attorney last December.
In that burglary, in Santa Clara County, Calif., police said the thieves apparently took the wrong file. The file was returned within a week by men who arranged to drop a key to a lock box at a predetermined spot in the San Francisco Airport, the Santa Clara County sheriff's office said.
Senate investigators apparently are checking whether the Hakim burglars, having been unsuccessful in getting records of shipments in the attorney's office, sought out and stole similar records from the Danish shipping agent.
The sources said, however, they do not think the theft of documents in Copenhagen would hamper the congressional inquiry. They said they thought Mr. Parlow had given copies of all the files to investigators before the break-in.
Reached in Copenhagen, Mr. Parlow declined to discuss who might have taken the files.
The investigation of the reported burglary at Mr. Hakim's lawyer's office remains open, but there is little hope the burglars will be found, said Lt. Thomas Davis of the Santa Clara County sheriff's office.
Lt. Davis said Mr. Hakim's lawyer, Horace Dunbar, has cited attorney- client privilege and has refused to provide investigators with more information.
At the time of the burglary, a sheriff's investigator reported that Mr. Dunbar had told him that the file related to the sale of weapons to Iran from Korea. However, the next day he said it was a two-year-old file of documents
from a contract to provide a security system for a nuclear plant in Korea, Lt. Davis said.
Lt. Davis said the FBI is monitoring the sheriff's investigation of the reported theft, but has not started its own inquiry. The FBI is assisting Walsh in his investigation of the Iran weapons sales and aid to the Nicaraguan rebels.