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South Korea to sack Tampa socialite Jill Kelley as honorary consul

Jill Kelley leaves her home in Tampa, Fla., on Nov. 13.
Jill Kelley leaves her home in Tampa, Fla., on Nov. 13./

Jill Kelley, the Tampa, Fla., socialite who inadvertently launched the FBI investigation that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, will be sacked as an “honorary consul” for South Korea because she used the title for personal gain, a senior official said Monday during a U.S. visit.

South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun first revealed Kelley’s removal from the post, which pays $2,500 a year, on Monday during a visit to Washington, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

"It's not suitable to the status of honorary consul that (she) sought to be involved in commercial projects and peddle influence," Yonhap quoted Kim as saying.

The Associated Press reported that an unidentified government official in Seoul confirmed the action on Tuesday.

The South Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately return phone calls from NBC News seeking comment.

It was not immediately clear what Kim was referring to as far as Kelley’s alleged efforts to benefit from the honorary consul post.

A New York businessman, Adam Victor, told Dateline NBC that Kelley was introduced to him at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August as someone whose friendship with Petraeus would help facilitate a no-bid deal with South Korea on a coal-gasification project. She would supposedly be in a position to help broker the billion-dollar deal directly with the Korean president, and expected a 2 percent commission, according to Victor, president and chief executive officer of TransGas Development Systems.

ABC News has reported that it reviewed emails that appear to support Victor’s account. 

But Abbe Lowell, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing Kelley, on Tuesday disputed Victor's account, telling NBC News that the businessman misrepresented the fee that was discussed, that Kelley never accepted any offer and that Victor falsely claimed that the discussions had anything to do with her connections with the U.S. military.

The 37-year-old Kelley also cited her honorary post in 9-1-1 calls complaining about members of the media who besieged her house after the Petraeus scandal broke, incorrectly maintaining that it entitled her to some type of diplomatic protection.

"I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability, so they should not be able to cross my property," she said on tapes released earlier this month. "I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well, because that's against the law to cross my property because, you know, it's inviolable."

A senior South Korean Foreign Ministry official who handles consulate affairs in the United States told the AP on Tuesday that honorary consuls don't have diplomatic immunity, and that the ministry applies much less strict standards in appointing them than it does for potential government officials.

Kelley also had worked as a volunteer “social liaison” to MacDill Air Force Base until mid-November, when her participation in the “Friends of MacDill” program was revoked as the Petraeus scandal erupted.

Kelley met Petraeus after he took over as head of U.S. Central Command at MacDill in October 2008, and became friends with him and his wife, Holly, during his time there.

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Numerous government and law enforcement officials have told NBC News that Kelley inadvertently triggered the FBI investigation that led to Petraeus’ resignation as CIA chief on Nov. 9, citing an extramarital affair.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say Kelley complained in mid-May to an FBI agent she was acquainted with about harassing anonymous emails warning her to stay away from Petraeus. The agent turned over the emails to the local FBI cyber investigations unit, which traced them to Paula Broadwell, Petreus’ biographer, the officials said.

In the course of the investigation, the agents discovered evidence that Petreaus and Broadwell had engaged in an extramarital affair, they said.

Kelley has largely remained silent since her role in the case became public shortly after Petraeus resigned. She and her husband, Scott, issued a single statement on Nov. 11, saying, "We and our family have been friends with Gen. Petraeus and his family for over five years. We respect his and his family's privacy and want the same for us and our three children."

In a separate investigation, the Pentagon’s inspector general is looking into “potentially inappropriate” emails that Kelley exchanged with Petraeus’ temporary successor as CentCom commander, Marine Gen. John Allen, defense officials tell NBC News.

The officials say a small number of the emails contained language that could be considered “inappropriate” or even “suggestive.” They also said that the investigation was deemed necessary to remove any suggestion that the Pentagon was covering up any improprieties by Allen, who remains in command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan pending the outcome of the probe.

And sources close to Kelley have denied speculation that she had any kind of inappropriate relationship with Allen and praised her work at MacDill, which they noted was recognized by authorities there.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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