An international banker arrested in a Customs Service sting over the weekend was the personal financial manager for Panamanian leader Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, supervising a $20 million secret account that funded payoffs to Panamanian politicians and paid travel and credit card expenses of Noriega, his wife and three children, according to Senate testimony released yesterday.

Amjad Awan, a Miami-based officer of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) who was indicted this week on money-laundering charges, testified that he performed a wide range of personal services for Noriega, including flying to Panama for monthly meetings to review Noriega's account and, once in 1982, accepting a cash deposit of "several hundred thousand dollars" from Noriega.

"I made an effort to cultivate him," Awan testified in a closed Sept. 30 session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's subcommittee on terrorism, narcotics and international communications. ". . . When he {Noriega} came to the United States, I used to take care of his expenses here."

The testimony provided evidence of the close and mutually dependent relationship between Noriega and BCCI, a Luxembourg-based bank that this week was charged in a Tampa, Fla., indictment with laundering $14 million in illicit drug profits on behalf of Colombia's Medellin cocaine cartel. A total of $32 million was involved in the conspiracy, federal officials said, but prosecutors allege that BCCI laundered only a portion of it.

A Senate investigator said yesterday that the indictment of BCCI and nine of its officers, including Awan, were the "tip of the iceberg" and that the bank played an even more critical role in laundering drug profits, including payoffs allegedly collected by Noriega, through the world banking system.

The bank has denied that it was "knowingly" involved in money laundering and insisted Tuesday that its indicted officers were "innocent victims of circumstances." John Hillbery, a spokesman for the bank in London, said yesterday that until recently BCCI maintained an account listed in the name of Panama's army, the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF), not Noriega, but that the bank was unaware of any improprieties associated with it.

In his testimony before the Senate subcommittee headed by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Awan detailed how the bank solicited Noriega's business and went to unusual lengths to satisfy his banking needs. Noriega had exclusive control of the account he set up in 1982 as a "secret account, a secret service account," according to Awan. Most of the deposits were made by Noriega in cash and the account balance eventually grew to as much as "$20 million, maybe $25 million," Awan said.

Senate investigators said that, for at least part of the time Noriega was giving these cash deposits to Awan, Noriege was allegedly receiving millions of dollars in payoffs from leaders of the Medellin cocaine cartel to permit them to operate in Panama. Questioned by the subcommittee, Awan denied that he was aware Noriega received any drug payoffs.

Awan testified that the account was used to pay expenses that appeared to have little to do with official PDF purposes. Under instructions from Noriega, he said, he made cash payments to Panamanian "politicians" during Panamanian elections, paid the credit card expenses of Noriega's family and handled the bills for Noriega's travels.

Eight days after testifying to the subcommittee, Awan was one of five BCCI officials who responded to engraved invitations to the phony wedding of an undercover Customs agent who had been posing as a money launderer as part of a two-year government sting aimed at BCCI. On Saturday night, Awan and his BCCI colleagues were arrested as they arrived in Tampa to attend a prenuptial bachelor's party.