Bretton G. Sciaroni, an American lawyer who became a powerful business broker and an adviser to the government in Cambodia after being fired as a White House official when he became embroiled in the Iran-contra scandal, died on March 12 at his home in the nation’s capital, Phnom Penh. He was 69.
He had been ill for some time, friends said, but no autopsy was performed to determine the cause of death. Two fancy pens were placed in his pocket when he was buried, an honor generally reserved for senior officials.
In more than three decades in Cambodia, Mr. Sciaroni became an influential and well-connected figure in legal and business circles as well as providing the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen with legal opinions that included a justification of the prime minister’s seizure of full power in a violent 1997 coup.
That analysis and the controversy that followed it harked back to a legal opinion Mr. Sciaroni had drawn up as a 35-year-old lawyer in Washington justifying a behind-the-scenes deal in which profits from arms sales to Iran were to be used to fund the Nicaraguan rebels known as the contras, despite a law severely limiting such assistance.
Sciaroni & Associates, which facilitates and provides advice on government contracts and investment projects.
He became influential in the business world and served as chairman of the International Business Chamber of Cambodia, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce and co-chairman of Cambodia’s Working Group on Law, Tax and Governance.
He was later formally named a legal adviser to the Cambodian government, an appointment made by royal decree that carried the rank of minister.