Where does all the money come from, General Noriega?

Manuel Noriega, whose acne scars earned him the nickname "Cara de Pina" (Spanish for "Pineapple Face"), was reluctant to do a TV interview, but in 1988 Wallace managed to convince him to let the cameras roll

A couple of years before the downfall of Manuel Noriega -- the U.S. invasion of Panama, the Miami mugshot, his arrest for drug trafficking and racketeering -- Mike Wallace showed up with a 60 Minutes crew to interview the dictator.

General Noriega had been running Panama -- brutally -- for 5 years by then and was widely believed to be working in cahoots with, and profiting wildly from, Colombian drug lords while also working on the payroll of the CIA.

ot-noriega1988.jpg

Manuel Noriega, 1988.

CBS News

Noriega, whose acne scars earned him the nickname "Cara de Pina" (Spanish for "Pineapple Face"), was reluctant to do a television interview, but Wallace managed to convince him to let the cameras roll. Of course, putting Mike Wallace and General Noriega in a room together virtually assured a classic 60 Minutes moment would result.

"Where does all the money come from General Noriega, your money?" Mike Wallace

The story of how that moment came to be was a much-told Mike Wallace office yarn.

ot-noriega1988a.jpg

Mike Wallace, 1988.

CBS News

Here is how he told it to author Frank Coffey for the book "60 Minutes: 25 Years of Television's Finest Hour" in 1993:

Mike Wallace: We had been after Noriega and after him for a long time. And all of a sudden they said, hey, the time to come is now. By no means was it a sure thing, but we had a shot.

You know, the business about Noriega being very sensitive about his bad skin is an absolutely true story. And I used it to my advantage. I took him aside before the interview, just he and I, and said, 'I know you're a little sensitive about your skin. I am too, because I have the same problem. But I have the best camera crew in the world. They make me look good. They will do the same for you.' He visibly relaxed. Thanked me. And I knew I'd gotten into a comfort zone with him. Now he trusted me. And my job was going to be easier. Later, during the interview, after pointing out his lavish lifestyle, when I asked him how much money he made in salary, he couldn't believe I'd asked the question.

Noriega's long pause and request for a break in the filming, spoke volumes, but when he rolled his eyes, that's when Wallace knew: "I had him."

Here's the script of the moment, posted in the video player above:

WALLACE: General Noriega, have you yourself never profited from the transshipment of drugs from Colombia to Panama, to the United States?

NORIEGA [through interpreter]: Never.

WALLACE: Never?

NORIEGA [through interpreter]: Never.

WALLACE: Question: how much do you make, what's your salary?

(Long pause)

WALLACE: Hard question. Simple question.

(Laughter)

MAN: Break, break, break.

WALLACE: You want time? Look, you say "break." It is my understanding that you make about $50,000 a year in your job, but you have several homes here in Panama, a home in Paris, fabulous art collection, you are said to be worth $400 million. I don't know. Your supporters laugh at that. You're a very wealthy man.

Where does all the money come from General Noriega, your money?

NORIEGA [through interpreter]: It's all false.