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Mr. BAUMAN. The President of Panama said on May 11 that Mr. Lopez was not Consul at the time he was interviewed by Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents on November 10, 1978.
If I am not mistaken, the indictment specifically says he was, in fact, the Consul at that time. Am I correct?
Mr. Davis. The affidavit specifically refers to him as being the Panamanian Consul in Miami. He presumably was consul in September, October, and early November.
Mr. BAUMAN. So then Mr. Lopez admitted to the agents or alleged to them he was in fact the Consul from Panama at that time?
Mr. Davis. Certainly, when the agent signed this affidavit, that was his understanding, based on what he knew at the time.
Mr. BAUMAN. I assume Mr. Lopez would know whether or not he was Consul when he made that statement.
Subsequently, he may have disappeared because he did I am not sure. There is no doubt then that the agent received this information and that it formed part of the indictment?
Mr. Davis. It is included in the affidavit.
Mr. CARNEY. The weapons on display over there were-well, not all of them. Some were all brought here by the Nicaraugans; is that correct?
Mr. Davis. Yes. These were weapons brought to the United States by Nicarauguans and turned over to custody of Federal agents when they arrived in this country.
Mr. CARNEY. They have been in custody of Federal agents since they have been here?
Mr. Davis. Yes.
There is one I hope is not here, since it turned out to be a live shell when the crate was unpacked. I assume that is still back in a separate, more secure place than here.
Mr. CARNEY. I looked at the carbines, and they have some numbers on them. And from my military days, I suspect that they are the serial numbers.
Could we have a list from the U.S. Customs as to the weapons that were involved in the Panamanian transactions? Have you cross-referenced any of these weapons?
Mr. Davis. There is a list of numbers. The list is limited to weapons which were legally licensed. Not all of the weapons referred to in the indictment were weapons for which there was an export license.
There is such a list, and it is my understanding that at least a certain number of the weapons-around 12 or 13–correspond.
Mr. Carney. Twelve or thirteen of these weapons here correspond with a list our Government has as being weapons sold to the Panamanian Government; is that correct?
Mr. Davis. Yes. That is what I was referring to in my statement, an issue which is now under investigation; the weapons sold to Casa y Pesca.
If I might be permitted, and I hope it is not considered an aside, but there was a lot of colloquy this morning about the nature of those weapons, whether they are hunting weapons, whether they are sporting weapons.
I will share my experience with the committee. Last year when I had the temerity to suggest that perhaps the U.S. Government should not be selling M-l's to the general public but should keep them for use in target practice, I received an awful lot of persistent mailing which pointed out that these weapons were indeed used for sporting purposes.
Mr. CARNEY. I appreciate that aside. My intention was to identify weapons that the Nicaraguan officials brought here as being weapons that left the United States to Panama, which eventually wound up in Nicaragua. And you agree with that?
Mr. Davis. Those weapons, according to the indictment, went to Casa y Pesca in Panama.
Mr. CARNEY. And then now they are here?
Going on to the colloquy that went on this morning, I understand the problem you are faced with. I was wondering-we are talking about the M-1 used to hunt in the bush on the east coast of the United States.
I wish the gentleman who had made that statement would explain to me what we hunt in the United States with a bazooka.
Mr. Davis. As was pointed out to me last year, I didn't fully appreciate what we hunted with M-l's either. Mr. CARNEY. Right. I thank you very much.
Mr. BAUMAN. Aside from the indictment, which I understand you are prohibited from discussing in detail, or any pending investigations, does your agency have information, or can you tell us about any pattern of participation by officials of the Panamanian Government or its diplomatic corps in these kinds of acts, or other incidents which may or may not have been brought to trial? Or rather, the subject of indictment?
Mr. Davis. I want to be clear that I am not confirming at all there is any such pattern. I would not want, at all, for that to be understood as the meaning of my response.
All I can say is that we have other unrelated and ongoing investigations, involving these kinds of violations, which we are not in a position to discuss in open session.
We would be happy to give further information in executive session.
And again, I reiterate, this does not suggest in any way there is such a pattern.
Mr. BAUMAN. It would seem that if the information were discussed in executive session it might shed light for two members of this committee.
Could you answer questions along these lines in a closed session? Mr. Davis. Obviously, in executive session, we would be in position to supply more information as to underlying facts, whichever way they cut, related to the indictment and the affidavit. This information is the evidence leading up to the indictment. We certainly could.
Mr. HUBBARD. Thank you, Mr. Davis.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Mr. Davis, could you explain to us the circumstances surrounding the indictments that came down in Texas regarding the so-called machinegun conspiracy? I refer specifically to an ATF press release that described the indictments under that denomination.
Mr. Davis. That was a conspiracy relating to distribution of 1,000 machineguns. That indictment was recently brought down. I believe that it involves machineguns that might have been going into Mexico.
I am not aware of any connection to these events.
Mr. O'BRIEN. What is the citizenship of the defendants in that case?
Mr. Davis. I am told that to the extent those are not American, they are Mexican.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Mexican citizens?
Mr. O'BRIEN. Could you explain to the committee for the record why Lopez, Edgardo Lopez, would have been beyond the jurisdiction of the United States, had he remained here? I presume that is the case. He could not have been indicted?
Mr. Davis. I am not certain of that. It is not clear if Mr. Lopez would have had diplomatic immunity. It is not clear, we were advised by the State Department, that a Consul has diplomatic immunity.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Is the grand jury still empaneled investigating this matter in general, and subsequent prosecution?
Mr. Davis. The grand jury is still considering this matter, and it might or might not produce indictments. But the grand jury is still receiving additional evidence.
Mr. HUBBARD. Thank you, our excellent counsel.
Mr. BAUMAN. I wonder if we might ask Mr. Davis to stay, and decide whether or not it might be well for Mr. Davis to testify this afternoon in closed session.
I think since we have a number of witnesses tomorrow, this information might be helpful to the committee.
Mr. HUBBARD. Could you, please?
Mr. HUBBARD. We do have Eugene W. Gleason to testify next and as soon as we return from this rollcall, which hopefully will be 10 minutes or less.
The committee stands in recess.
Mr. BAUMAN. Mr. Davis said it would probably be better for the committee's convenience, and his, too, to call him early tomorrow morning. Perhaps we could call him early tomorrow to hear whatever additional evidence he has.
I would suggest that rather than doing that this afternoon.
Mr. HUBBARD. To that I would add, could we please confer with you after the testimony of Mr. Gleason, or do you need to leave?
Mr. Davis. I need to leave at some point this afternoon. But I can be around for a little while, and will be happy to discuss it with you.
Mr. HUBBARD. The staff, Mr. Bauman and this Congressman will confer with you just to give us a chance to chat with you this afternoon later, or this evening. You have been asked not to leave the country. (Laughter.]
Mr. Davis. I can assure you, I won't.
Mr. HUBBARD. By someone with more weight than I. I realize you are trying to be cooperative, and yet you are also trying to be careful in your delicate situation. And I empathize with your need to be careful in what you say, even in a closed session.
Mr. Davis. That is correct. We still have trial problems. You wouldn't want a closed session followed by a fight with trial de fense attorneys which could lead to their request for a transcript of the closed session, which could have classified materials revealed.
We could be creating a gray mail situation, which we have created in other cases.
I would be happy to make arrangements.
Mr. HUBBARD. We will discuss it with you later today. But again, as I say, as Chairman I can empathize with you, and as an attorney, your delicate situation as to what you could say in a closed session.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. RICHARD J. Davis, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE
TREASURY, ENFORCEMENT AND OPERATIONS Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, we are here today in response to your request for testimony concerning various investigations conducted by Treasury law enforcement agents into a series of firearms transactions in Miami, Florida. These investigations, which are still ongoing, have resulted in one indictment which is now pending in the Southern District of Florida. Some aspects on this matter are now before the Grand Jury.
In appearing here today, there are two considerations about which the Committee should be aware. First, because the underlying facts involve evidence in both a pending trial and an ongoing investigation, we are seriously restricted as to what we can say in public session. As described previously to the Committee staff, our public testimony will be limited to describing those materials already formally in the public record. To do otherwise could jeopardize the ability of the United States to conduct the trial of this matter and to successfully complete these inquiries, consequences neither we, nor we are sure, the Committee desire.
Second, since these events are still under investigation, the state of our knowledge is necessarily in flux and, as to some aspects, incomplete.
With these cautions in mind, I would like to describe the state of these investigations.
An indictment was filed in Miami charging Jose Pujol (an employee of Air Panama), Carlos Wittgreen (a Panamanian), Walter McComas (an exporter), James Howell (owner of Public Safety Associates), and Jose Alverez (firearms dealer), with conspiring to violate the Gun Control Act by dealing in firearms without proper licenses and with failing to maintain required records. Mr. Alvarez was also charged
with certain recordkeeping violations. The transactions referred to in the indictment included .30 caliber M-1 rifles, pistols and ammunition. The indictment states that a number of these firearms were transported to Panama. While an affidavit filed in connection with the arrest of Mr. Pujol quotes him as saying these weapons would be going to Nicaraguan guerrilla forces, the indictment does not contain this allegation and the case filed does not specifically relate to any export violations.
The affidavit also refers to the participation of the Panamanian Consul in Miami, Edgardo Lopez, in these transactions. A copy of both the affidavit and indictment are attached to my statement.
In addition, a related investigation is also in progress concerning certain weapons which were shipped from Miami to Panama under legal licenses issued by the Office of Munitions Control in the State Department. The licenses authorized shipment of 250 weapons to Caza y Pesca, a company in Panama. Certain weapons traced to these shipments, we have been informed, have been seized in Nicaragua. The purpose of this investigation is to determine whether there has been any criminal violation of the Arms Export Control Act by diverting weapons contrary to the terms of the license. Some of the weapons brought to this country by Nicaraguan officials in the last several days are involved in this inquiry.
This completes my prepared statement. Consistent with the limitations existing on what can be said in public session, I will be prepared to answer any questions you may have.