Robert W. Owen, who was the liaison to the Nicaraguan rebels for former White House aide Oliver L. North, has been granted limited immunity from prosecution in return for his cooperation with special prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh, sources close to the investigation said yesterday.
Owen also received limited immunity from the congressional Iran-contra committees before testifying before them in mid-May.
After receiving immunity in a sealed court order from U.S. District Court Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. earlier this month, he was interrogated for more than 12 hours about Lt. Col. North's activities in three or four informal interviews with Walsh's investigators, the sources said.
He has not yet appeared before the federal grand jury Walsh has convened, a source said.
Under the agreement, Owen cannot be prosecuted on the basis of information he gives to Walsh's office and the grand jury or leads derived from the information.
He could, however, be subject to prosecution based on evidence obtained independently by Walsh.
Owen told the Iran-contra panels May 14 and 19 that, as North's private courier, he delivered CIA maps to the contras and helped cash thousands of dollars in traveler's checks North got from contra leader Adolfo Calero.
Owen testified that he passed on the cash to other rebel leaders. Describing himself as a friend of North, Owen also said he received $1,000 from the Marine officer as a wedding gift.
Previous testimony established that most of the money in Calero's account from which the traveler's checks were drawn originated from donations from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.
Owen also worked with CIA station chiefs in Central America who helped locate a site for a contra airstrip to be built in Costa Rica.
The involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency and North in providing military assistance to the contras took place between 1984 and 1986, when the Boland Amendment barred the CIA, Pentagon and other U.S. intelligence entities from furnishing such aid.
North at that time was a staff member of the National Security Council. He was fired Nov. 25 with the revelation that millions of dollars in profits from the U.S. arms sales to Iran had been funneled to aid the contras.