143. Telegram 110970 From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations1

110970. Following repeat State 110970 action San Jose dtd 7 May. Qte. For Ambassador only. Subj: Vesco Case: Wilkins Arrest. Refs: San Jose 2258, State 110869.

1. We have had lengthy discussion with Elliot Sagor who provided following information of which Department was totally unaware previously. We are transmitting this for your background knowledge. According to Sagor, James Wilkins approached the U.S. Attorney’s Office to tell them that he had been offered a job with Robert Vesco in Costa Rica. Sagor says that Wilkins told him that he was willing to go to Costa Rica to accept the position and would report back on any information he developed relating to Vesco’s activities. Sagor said that Wilkins claimed to have family in Liberia, an aunt and uncle on his mother’s side named Catherine and Fred Worth, and to have travelled frequently to Costa Rica.

2. Sagor advises that he was interested in developing information about Vesco’s travel plans since it might be possible to legally effect his return to the U.S. from third countries if his whereabouts in such a country were known in time. Sagor was also interested in any information Wilkins might develop on rumored involvement of Vesco in narcotics operations in the Bahamas. Accordingly, Sagor decided to take Wilkins up on his offer. Sagor says that he stressed to Wilkins that latter was acting on his own volition and was responsible for his own activities. Sagor did agree to fund Wilkins travel to Costa Rica. This was done by issuing a witness voucher for travel funds. Wilkins was given the cash but no receipt. Rationale was that Wilkins was a potential witness to Vesco related activities of interest to USG investigation.

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3. Wilkins copied down a code which was to be used in conversations with U.S. Attorney’s Office and may still be in possession of that code. He telephoned that office on at least three occasions from Costa Rica. On one such occasion, Sagor stated that Wilkins asked for and was denied money from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Sagor suspects that Wilkins may have been bought off, if not set up in the first instance, by Vesco but hesitates to compromise him in any way should he be acting in good faith. In view of first possibility, Sagor cautions discretion in dealing with Wilkins.

4. With regard to guidance requested in reftel, we suggest that if you are questioned by either the GOCR or the press that you limit your response at this time, unless further events or information counsel otherwise, to stating only that you have heard about the Wilkins case and that you are checking into it. Please advise us of any further developments as soon as possible. Sisco. Unqte.

  1. Summary: The Department informed the Embassy in Costa Rica that U.S. Attorney Elliot Sagor had funded James Wilkins’s travel and had accepted Wilkins’s offer of any information that he might gather on Vesco’s whereabouts and activities.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760182–0116. Secret; Immediate; Limdis; Stadis. This telegram repeated a telegram of the same number, not found, sent by the Department to San José on May 7. Telegram 2258 from San José is dated May 6. (Ibid., D760175–0911) Telegram 110869 to New York is dated May 11. (Ibid., D760182–0074) In telegram 2483 from San José, May 18, the Embassy reported that Oduber had promised an immediate resolution to Wilkins’s case, and that the Minister of Public Security had informed the Embassy that Wilkins would be sent back to the United States on May 19. (Ibid., D760192–1134) In telegram 2499 from San José, May 19, Todman recommended that Wilkins be asked to make a sworn statement on the circumstances of his detention and interrogation in Costa Rica in order to document the apparent violation of his rights and to deter possible “ill-considered use of Wilkins’s forced confession” by either the Costa Rican Government or Vesco. (Ibid., D760194–0276)