KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, JULY 21 -- Ten million dollars of contra aid that was discovered as mislaid last spring has been returned -- plus interest -- to its donor, Hassanal Bolkiah, the sultan of Brunei, the Malaysian national news agency said today.
A Brunei spokesman said the money was meant for aid to Central America's poor rather than for arms for the Nicaraguan rebels, according to Bernama, the news agency.
A Foreign Ministry official, Awang Majid bin Abdul Rahim, was quoted as telling journalists of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that the money was given at the U.S. government's request purely on humanitarian grounds. Awang Majid said the money never was sent to Central America and, "We got back the money with interest," the report said.
Congressional investigators discovered last spring that the money had not gone as intended to a Swiss bank account controlled by White House aide Lt. Col. Oliver North. It was found, instead, in a Swiss businessman's account. Investigators said Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams had given the Brunei government the wrong account number.
Testimony in Washington has indicated that Abrams asked the sultan for the money because Congress had denied U.S. government aid to the contra rebels fighting Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government.
Brunei, whose oil reserves have made it rich, has a population of 250,000 and is located in northern Borneo. The rest of the Southeast Asian island is shared by Malaysia and Indonesia.