General David Petraeus kisses Jill Kelley after accepting community service award presented at Kelley’s home during the summer of 2011. (NY Daily News via Getty Images)
A New York businessman who discussed a multi-billion-dollar Korean business deal with Jill Kelley said the Tampa woman at the center of the Petraeus scandal told him Gen. Petraeus had arranged for her to become an honorary consul for South Korea and promote free trade, and then asked him for $80 million to complete the deal.
"Ms. Kelley made it clear to me that General Petraeus put her in this position, and that’s why she was able to have access to such senior levels [of the Korean government]," said Adam Victor, president and CEO of TransGas Development Systems, "that they were essentially doing a favor for General Petraeus, and that she had access solely because of her relationship with General Petraeus."
Victor, who met Kelley at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August, said he was disappointed in Gen. Petraeus for helping Kelley become an honorary consul. “Frankly, I blame Gen. Petraeus for this as a lapse of judgment,” he said. “The general should have known better.”
Gen. Petraeus resigned as CIA director last Friday after an FBI investigation turned up evidence of an affair between Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, co-author of the Petraeus biography “All In.” The investigation began when Kelley, a Tampa socialite, told an FBI agent she knew about “harassing” emails that turned out to originate from Broadwell.
According to Victor, he went to Tampa to promote coal gasification and met a friend of Kelley’s who suggested that they meet to discuss a possible international deal. “The person who introduced me to her said that she was well known to be a very close friend of Gen. Petraeus,” said Victor.
Victor said that he and Kelley met in “the VIP section” at the convention, where Kelly said that “she was a very good friend of Gen. Petraeus,” and that “he arranged for her to get this position of honorary consul for South Korea” to promote free trade. She also allegedly said she had access to senior government officials in Korea.
Victor said he thought it made sense that Petraeus would want to put a trusted aide in charge of promoting free trade. When Kelley named her fee for brokering the deal, however, Victor balked. The coal gasification plants under discussion were worth $4 billion, said Victor — and Kelley wanted a two percent cut. “That’s an $80 million fee,” he said. “And I mean that is problematic … No broker gets $80 million. I mean that’s two whole orders of magnitude higher than what they would get.”
Victor said he “terminated the relationship” after Kelley asked for $80 million. He decided that while she was not making an inappropriate request on purpose, it showed she was inexperienced and unqualified for the job. He also began to wonder about Petraeus’s judgment.
"It became clear that it did not smell right," he said. "Gen. Petraeus should not have put an inexperienced person in charge of the Free Trade Agreement with such an important ally as South Korea."
"It’s a sad day for the country," concluded Victor. "Gen. Petraeus has served this country well."
A spokesperson for Jill Kelley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Retired Army Col. Steve Boylan, a friend and former spokesperson for ex-CIA Director Petraeus, said it was “nonsense” that Petraeus had any part in Kelley’s alleged Korean deal. “He knows nothing about it,” insisted Boylan. “What other people do he can’t control.” Another source told ABC News that Petraeus had asked Kelley to stop throwing his name around.