A money launderer for the major Colombia cocaine cartel has told Congress in secret testimony that he funneled nearly $10 million to Nicaraguan contras through former CIA operative Felix Rodriguez, congressional sources disclosed.

Testifying behind closed doors before the Senate narcotics and terrorism subcommittee Thursday and Friday, Ramon Milian-Rodriguez, who is serving a 35-year federal sentence for racketeering and related charges in connection with narcotics money laundering, said that the cartel believed it was currying favor with the Central Intelligence Agency when it directed him to give the cash, a panel source said.

After his testimony, which the subcommittee did not divulge, the panel announced that subpoenas were being issued to witnesses in connection with "serious charges that narcotics traffickers have developed a working relationship with officials or political figures in the United States and foreign countries and become involved in both sides of the Nicaraguan conflict."

Milian-Rodriguez testified that the money was delivered in several installments after 1983, when he was arrested, the source said. The subcommittee source said that Milian-Rodriguez claimed he passed the money in Central America to couriers selected by Felix Rodriguez.

"The cartel figured it was buying a little friendship," the source said Milian-Rodriguez testified. "What the hell is 10 million bucks? They thought they were going to buy some good will and take a little heat off of them."

"They figured {that} maybe the CIA or DEA {Drug Enforcement Administration} will not screw around so much," he said. The source said that, to his recollection, Milian-Rodriguez did not identify any quid pro quo from the U.S. government in exchange for the money.

Two other panel sources confirmed that a cocaine money launderer testified that he provided nearly $10 million in cash to the contras through Rodriguez, but declined to provide further detail.

The source who provided details of the testimony said that the panel's staff has not been able to find the money in known contra accounts provided to the panel by the Iran-contra committees.

Rodriguez, whose nom de guerre is Max Gomez, helped oversee the airdrop of contra supplies into Nicaragua from the El Salvador military air base of Ilopango. The airdrops were part of the "enterprise" funded in part by the U.S. sale of missiles to Iran, according to congressional testimony by former Air Force major general Richard V. Secord and his associate Albert A. Hakim. Rodriguez has gained national prominence through disclosure of his close ties to Donald P. Gregg, Vice President Bush's national security adviser, and his testimony last month before the Iran-contra committees.

Rodriguez could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Fernando Mendigutia, was out of town.

The subcommittee source said that Milian-Rodriguez testified that Rodriguez had approached reputed Colombian narcotics kingpins known collectively as the Medellin cartel, which are suspected of distributing 75 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States, for money for the contras.

He said that Milian-Rodriguez testified that the cartel, which is led by Pablo Escobar, Jorge Ochoa and, until his seizure earlier this year by U.S. officials, Carlos Lehder, believed Rodriguez was in the employ of the CIA. He said that Milian-Rodriguez testified that the money went to the CIA.

"The allegation is absurd," Sharon Foster, a CIA spokeswoman, said. If anyone in the "the CIA is found to be involved in drug trafficking, the person is fired and that information is turned over to the appropriate law enforcement organization," she said.