A Justice Department suit says that former budget director Bert Lance, shortly after leaving office, tried to use his influence in the White House on behalf of a Georgia political associate and another businessman accused of bribery in the complaint.
The civil suit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Miami, accuses former Georgia state senator R. Eugene Holley and a business associate, Roy J. Carver of Miami, of paying a $1.5 million bribe in 1976 to an official of the Emirate of Qatar, an oil-rich state on the Persian Gulf.
Both defendants immediately settled the complaint, neither admitting or denying the allegations.
According to informed sources Lance's phone call to the White House in February 1978 came about four months after Holley introduced Lance to influential foreign investors who helped Lance out of serious personal financial problems.
Lance told of his dealings with Holley in a sworn deposition taken in connection with a private lawsuit filed last year when Lance and foreign investors attempted to buy control of Washington-based Financial General Bankshares Inc.
According to the Justice Department suit filed yesterday, Holley and Carver formed Holcar Oil Corp. in the Caribbean Cayman Islands in 1975.
That year, according to the suit, the defendants began negotiating to gain oil exploration rights in Qartar with Ali Jaidah, the director of petroleum affairs.
In January 1976, the suit says, "Carver caused the Harris Trust and Savings Bank in Chicago to transfer $1.5 million" to a Jaidah account in the Swiss Credit Bank, Geneva.
Carver, 70, an independently wealthy businessman and philanthropist, said in a statement yesterday that between 1976 and 1977 Holcar spent more than $17 million developing the concession.
The Justice Department said that in mid-1977 developmental problems threatened to push costs well above $17 million. As a result, in December of 1977 Holcar entered into an agreement with Attock Oil Corp. of Rawalpindi, Pakistan, which is controlled by Saudi Arabian investor Ghaith Pharaon.
By then, Jaidah, who had allegedly collected the $1.5 million bribe, was no longer Qatar's director of petroleum. He is now secretary general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
In January 1978, his replacement in Qatar, Abdullah Sallat, told Holley and Carver that their concession would be terminated because they had failed to comply with contract terms, the Justice Department said.
The next month, with the concession threatened, Holley sought assistance form Lance, according to the lawsuit.
The Justice Department suit says that in April 1976 Holley had pledged his Holcar stock for a $200,000 loan from the National Bank of Georgia. Lance was then president of the Atlanta bank.
Other sources note that in October 1977, just after Lance was forced from the Carter administration amid a congressional investigation of his banking affairs, Holley introduced him to Agha Hasan Avedi, a Parkistani-born London banker close to Ghaith Pharaon.
In January of 1978, Abedi's London-based bank, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, lent $3.5 million to Lance on an oral promise to repay, according to court documents.
That same month, Pharaon paid a premium price of $20 a share for Lance's NBG stock, producing $2.4 million for Lance.
In response to Holley's request for assistance in February 1978, the Justice Department said, Lance called Eleanor Connors, an assistant to White House aide Hamilton Jordan.
Connors, in turn, called the State Department and arranged a meeting between Holley and the desk officer in charge of Qatar.
White House Press Secretary Jody Powell said yesterday that Connors made the call to State "as a matter of routine. She did not check with Hamilton or anyone else first."
The Justice Department suit says that, as a result of Holley's talk with the State Department, a meeting was arranged in Doha, Qatar, in March 1978. On hand were, among others, Carver, Holley, U.S. Ambassador. Andrew Killgore and Sallat, the petroleum affairs director.
At the meeting, the Justice Department said, Sallat indicated once again that the concession would soon be canceled.
Later, Carver revealed to Ambassador Killgore that he had paid the $1.5 million to Jaidah, the suit said.
"Who do I see now, how do I get it done?" the suit quotes Carver as saying.
Killgore then reportedly cabled an account of the conversations to the State Department, which informed the Justice Department.
Justice Department attorney David Addis carried out the investigation in Qatar and this country that culminated in yesterday's suit. It is the first civil action under 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Its criminal provisions do not apply to the alleged bribe of Jadah in 1976. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Roy J. Carver, left, and R. Eugene Holley leave courthouse after settling Justice Department complaint, neither admitting or denying bribery allegations. UPI