Lawrence Walsh: Lawyer who spent seven years leading the US government inquiry into the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal

Lawrence Walsh was a New York corporate lawyer with impeccable Republican credentials who as independent counsel prosecuted several key players in the Reagan-era Iran-contra scandal only to see the convictions overturned on appeal and many other officials pardoned.

Walsh began his career as a Depression-era racket-buster, served as deputy US attorney and spent most of his career as a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell, one of the most powerful law firms in the US, but he gained his greatest public profile in retirement. In 1986 he was appointed special prosecutor to launch an inquiry into the Iran-contra scandal.

He spent nearly seven years investigating, concluding that the administration of President Reagan had illegally sold arms to Iran to win the release of US hostages in the Middle East and had given the proceeds, in defiance of Congress, to the Contras, who were fighting to overthrow the Marxist government of Nicaragua.The affair led to the dismissal of the president's national security adviser, John Poindexter, and Oliver North, the National Security Council staff aide accused of masterminding the scheme.

They were among 14 officials who faced criminal charges and were among the 11 convicted, although their convictions were set aside by appellate court decisions. Five, including former State Department official Elliott Abrams and former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger, were pardoned by President George HW Bush.

Lawrence Edward Walsh, lawyer: born Port Maitland, Nova Scotia 8 January 1912; twice married; died Nichols Hills, Oklahoma 19 March 2014.

© The Washington Post

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