Over the weekend, a new profile
by Copley News Service added to our understanding of former GOP Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's "Co-conspirator #3," the mysterious Thomas Kontogiannis. Today, we can add a bit more.
Recall that Kontogiannis bribed Cunningham through purchasing a yacht from the congressman -- and paying several hundred thousand dollars more than it was worth. His finance company also handled some of Cunningham's questionable mortgages.
But reporters and investigators have struggled to understand what Kontogiannis was getting from Duke for all the money he spent on the lawmaker.
The latest theory seems to be that Duke was introducing him to world leaders. As Copley reports:
Cunningham "introduced him to people. It was like he had a congressman on retainer," [a Justice Department official] added.
The Copley story notes that he twice accompanied Cunningham to the White House, and kept a picture of himself meeting President Bush in his house. Now, TPMmuckraker has learned he apparently met the man who would shortly become king of Saudi Arabia.
It's been known that Kontogiannis, a wealthy businessman and two-time felon, in 2004 accompanied
Cunningham and a Saudi constituent, San Diego real estate mogul Ziyad Abduljawad, to Saudi Arabia. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) also went
. Abduljawad paid for the trip.
Until now, we haven't known much about the trip -- who the group met with, why, what they talked about. Cunningham is said to have gone in order to promote U.S.-Saudi ties, or some other such pap. Beyond that, we've had nothing.
I called Calvert last week to ask him more about the trip. (He's the only one of the crew who's talking these days: Cunningham's in the pen, Abduljawad declined an interview, Tommy K's lawyer doesn't return calls.) Calvert's memory wasn't perfect, but he had some details to share. The group met with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah -- then the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, and now its king.
Kontogiannis was at the meeting, Calvert recalled, although "he didn't say anything, as I remember," the lawmaker told me.
Copley now tells us its sources say Tommy K's purpose "appeared to center on an oil business he owned in Europe." That's not much to go on.
The group also met with "ministers of various government institutions within Saudi Arabia," Calvert said. He recalled Kontogiannis being present for "some" of those meetings. As for what was discussed, Calvert recalled only that a number of the ministers pressed Cunningham to help ease post-9/11 restrictions on student visas for Saudis. With Abdullah, Calvert said the discussion was "primarily social," and "trying to build a better relationship with the United States."
Now a U.S. citizen, Kontogiannis is worth about $70 million, Copley reporter Joe Cantlupe tells us. He spent over $300,000 on Cunningham.
"What Kontogiannis, 59, got from the relationship with Cunningham remains unclear," Cantlupe writes, but notes that the businessman visited the White House twice with the Duke. And now we know they visited the Saudi crown prince together also. Was that it? He bought Cunningham -- a well-positioned but hardly towering member of the U.S. House -- to meet world leaders?