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The Billionaire Who Stood by Jeffrey Epstein

The billionaire financier Leon Black, one of Wall Street’s most powerful executives, was facing questions from clients after Jeffrey Epstein was arrested last year on federal sex trafficking charges. The two men had known each other for decades, and investors of Mr. Black’s investment company, Apollo Global Management, wanted to know how close they had been.

Such questions were valid, Mr. Black said, according to a transcript of a call with analysts in July 2019. He said in a letter that same day to investors that he had had a “limited relationship” with Mr. Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and had consulted him “from time to time” on personal financial matters.

But their connection was deeper than Mr. Black let on: The two men often socialized and dined together, and Mr. Black was a lucrative client for Mr. Epstein over the final decade of his life.

Mr. Black wired Mr. Epstein at least $50 million in the years after Mr. Epstein’s 2008 conviction for soliciting prostitution from a teenage girl, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times and interviews with four people with knowledge of the transactions. The transfers included $10 million to a foundation started by Mr. Epstein and consulting fees that were sufficiently unusual to draw scrutiny from Deutsche Bank, where Mr. Epstein kept his accounts. Two of the people said the total amount sent by Mr. Black to Mr. Epstein could be as high as $75 million.

It was not clear what kind of services Mr. Epstein provided to Mr. Black, whose $9 billion fortune can buy him access to the best lawyers and accountants in the world. Mr. Epstein, though he styled himself as a “financial doctor” to wealthy clients, was a college dropout who had worked on Wall Street for just a few years, demonstrated no great skill as an investor and had no formal training in tax and estate planning.

Credit…Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan, via Getty Images

“Mr. Black received personal trusts and estates planning advice as well as family office philanthropy and investment services from several financial and legal advisers, including Mr. Epstein, during a six-year period, between 2012 and 2017,” said Stephanie Pillersdorf, a spokeswoman for Mr. Black. “The trusts and estate planning advice was vetted by leading auditors and law firms.”

The business relationship ended in 2018 because of a “fee dispute” and Mr. Black stopped communicating with Mr. Epstein, she said.

“Mr. Black continues to be appalled by the conduct that led to the criminal charges against Mr. Epstein, and he deeply regrets having any involvement with him,” Ms. Pillersdorf said.

She added that Mr. Epstein did not do any work for Apollo, whose investors include some of the biggest public pensions in the country, large sovereign wealth funds and private foundations.

The fees from Mr. Black help explain a mystery about Mr. Epstein’s wealth: How a man who left behind an estate worth more than $600 million made money in the years after his most lucrative client, the billionaire retail magnate Leslie H. Wexner, cut him off.

Some of the payments from Mr. Black are described in an internal report by Deutsche Bank, which served as Mr. Epstein’s primary banker from 2013 into 2019. The report was provided to regulators who fined the German bank over the summer for its failure to catch numerous red flags in Mr. Epstein’s financial activities.

Portions of the report reviewed by The Times describe a payment of $22.5 million in 2017 by a company called BV70 LLC, which the bank said owned Mr. Black’s yacht, to Plan D, the company that managed Mr. Epstein’s Gulfstream jet. When an employee in Deutsche Bank’s anti-financial-crime division inquired about the payment, she was told by another bank employee that it was a fee for consulting services provided by Southern Trust Company, one of the dozens of entities Mr. Epstein operated in the Virgin Islands. There was no explanation for why the payment went to Plan D.

The Deutsche Bank report also shows that BV70 made a $10 million donation in 2015 to a charitable foundation started by Mr. Epstein, Gratitude America, which made several million dollars in grants while Mr. Epstein was casting himself as a philanthropist. BV70 also planned to make another payment of $10 million to Mr. Epstein for advisory work, according to the report, although it was unclear if that payment was ever made.


Credit…Gabriella N. Baez for The New York Times

And in 2014, Mr. Epstein received several million dollars in fees from Narrows Holdings, a company that Mr. Black — the chairman of the Museum of Modern Art — has used to purchase much of his billion-dollar art collection, according to two of the people with knowledge of the transactions. The details of the services Mr. Epstein provided in exchange for those fees are also unclear.

Mr. Epstein portrayed himself as a financial guru to the wealthy, although for many years his chief client was Mr. Wexner, the founder of L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret. Mr. Epstein was first publicly accused of engaging in sex with underage girls in 2006, and Mr. Wexner said he cut ties with Mr. Epstein at the end of the following year. (Mr. Wexner said last year that Mr. Epstein had misappropriated “vast sums” from him; Mr. Epstein had returned at least $100 million to Mr. Wexner, The Times has reported.)

In 2008, Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to a state prostitution charge with a minor and served 13 months in a state jail as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors — an arrangement that was kept confidential at the time. He kept a low profile for the next decade, but after an investigation by The Miami Herald drew attention to his plea deal, federal prosecutors in New York charged Mr. Epstein with sex trafficking in July 2019. His death the next month in a Manhattan jail cell was ruled a suicide.

Mr. Black knew Mr. Epstein for decades — in 1997 he made Mr. Epstein one of the original trustees of what is today called the Debra and Leon Black Foundation — and was among the high-profile figures who maintained ties with him following his prostitution arrest. They included Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder; Lawrence Summers, the former president of Harvard; James E. Staley, now the chief executive of Barclays; and the hedge fund manager Glenn Dubin and his wife, Eva.

Mr. Epstein frequently hosted Mr. Black at his New York mansion, usually meeting him for breakfast or lunch, according to four people familiar with their relationship. In 2012, while on a family vacation in the Caribbean, Mr. Black traveled by yacht to attend a cookout at Mr. Epstein’s private island residence in the U.S. Virgin Islands, two of the people said.

In 2011, Mr. Epstein’s financial advisory firm — Financial Trust — joined Mr. Black and members of his family in investing in a small emissions control company, Environmental Solutions Worldwide, where two of Mr. Black’s sons serve as board members. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

According to an archived version of one of Mr. Epstein’s websites, the men visited Mr. Black’s alma mater, Harvard, together. Although the university stopped accepting gifts from Mr. Epstein after his 2008 plea, according to a report by the university, Mr. Black had given at least $5 million to professors and Mr. Epstein’s staff members had “played a role in facilitating the Black donations.”

Business records from the Virgin Islands reviewed by The Times last year show how Mr. Epstein’s business suffered following his 2008 case. The conviction coincided with the fallout from the financial crisis, which cost Financial Trust $150 million. The company took in just $200,000 in fee income from 2008 to 2012 before closing down that year, the records show.

The same year, Mr. Epstein established a new business, Southern Trust Company, which he told territorial officials was primarily a DNA data-mining and genetic research provider with a “financial arm.” There’s little evidence the company — which had no scientists on its nine-member staff — ever did any research.

Southern Trust collected more than $180 million in fees between 2013 and 2017. (In 2018, the year Mr. Black said he cut ties with Mr. Epstein, Southern Trust reported no fee income.)

The attorney general of the Virgin Islands, Denise N. George, filed a civil forfeiture lawsuit against Mr. Epstein’s estate this year, claiming that Mr. Epstein had deceived officials to get Southern Trust a lucrative tax break and used his island retreat to engage in sex trafficking. Ms. George’s offices said in court filings that she intended to serve subpoenas on Mr. Black and several of his business entities. (Ms. George has said she intends to serve a subpoena on Mr. Dubin as well.)

Mr. Black’s representatives have been gathering documents to hand over to the attorney general’s office. Mr. Black was prepared to cooperate with Ms. George’s request, Ms. Pillersdorf said.

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Virgin Islands Will Subpoena Billionaire Investor in Epstein Case

Officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands want the billionaire investor Leon Black, one of the most powerful men on Wall Street, to hand over information about his decades-long business ties to the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The territory’s attorney general, Denise N. George, informed a local court on Thursday that she would issue civil subpoenas to Mr. Black, a founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, and several entities connected to him, the chief clerk of the court said.

The subpoenas, copies of which were filed with the court, seek financial statements and tax returns for a number of entities, including Black Family Partners and Elysium Management, which oversee some of Mr. Black’s $9 billion fortune. Subpoenas will also go to Apollo and entities that help manage Mr. Black’s extensive art collection.

Mr. Black has said Mr. Epstein provided him with advice on tax strategy, estate planning and philanthropy, but has provided no details. A representative for Mr. Black said the financier had no further comment.

Mr. Black and his companies paid millions in fees to Southern Trust Company, which Mr. Epstein set up in the Virgin Islands in 2013, according to three people briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Mr. Epstein had told territorial officials that Southern Trust was developing a DNA data-mining service, although he said the company would also have a “financial arm.” Financial reports filed with the territory show that Southern Trust collected $184 million in fees from 2013 to 2018, although it was not clear how much of that came from Mr. Black.

Mr. Black has said Mr. Epstein did no work for Apollo, which invests more than $300 billion for pension funds and other investors. The company said in a statement that Mr. Epstein did not do business with the firm.

Some of the subpoenas are for companies that Mr. Black, the chairman of the Museum of Modern Art, has used to build a collection that includes paintings by Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

Credit…Gabriella N. Baez for The New York Times

It was not clear when the subpoenas would be served; courts in the Virgin Islands are largely shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The attorney general is seeking documents from Mr. Black related to Southern Trust and other companies and organizations that were controlled by Mr. Epstein, who died last summer in federal custody while facing federal sex-trafficking charges. His death was ruled a suicide.

The requests represent a significant step in Ms. George’s efforts to unravel the mystery of how Mr. Epstein amassed an estate valued at more than $600 million. They are part of a civil forfeiture suit she filed against his estate in January, claiming Mr. Epstein had misled government officials in the Virgin Islands to secure lucrative tax breaks for his businesses while engaging in sex trafficking and the abuse of underage girls.

Ms. George has also sent subpoenas to banks that handled Mr. Epstein’s money, including JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank. Some of the payment information involving Mr. Black surfaced during a review by Deutsche Bank, according to one of the people briefed on the matter. Deutsche Bank recently reached a settlement with regulators in New York who found the bank had done little to vet Mr. Epstein’s financial dealings.

Mr. Black knew Mr. Epstein for more than two decades. Mr. Epstein was one of the original trustees of the Debra and Leon Black Family Foundation, which Mr. Black established in 1997, and stayed on the board for a decade.

Some prominent business figures — including Leslie H. Wexner, the retail mogul behind Victoria’s Secret — cut ties with Mr. Epstein after his 2008 conviction in Florida on a charge of soliciting prostitution from a minor, but Mr. Black did not.

In 2015, a company tied to the Black foundation donated $10 million to one of Mr. Epstein’s charitable organizations. And at Mr. Epstein’s urging, Mr. Black gave an anonymous $5 million donation to the MIT Media Lab, according to a university report, and several million to professors at Harvard University.

Mr. Black has said he was “completely unaware” of the activities that led to the sex-trafficking charges against Mr. Epstein.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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QAnon Followers Are Hijacking the #SaveTheChildren Movement

Recently, an acquaintance posted a photo on her Instagram story showing a map of the United States, filled with bright red dots.

“This is not a map of Covid,” the caption read. “It is a map of human trafficking.”

Under the photo was a hashtag: #SaveTheChildren.

A few days later, I saw the same hashtag trending on Twitter. This time, it was being posted by followers of QAnon, the sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy theory. These people were also disturbed about human trafficking, but with a dark twist: Many of them believed that President Trump was on the verge of exposing “Pizzagate” or “Pedogate,” their terms for a global conspiracy involving a ring of Satan-worshiping, child-molesting criminals led by prominent Democrats.

My acquaintance is not a QAnon believer. And she certainly doesn’t think, as some QAnon adherents do, that Hillary Clinton and her cronies are kidnapping and eating children (yes, eating them) in order to harvest a life-extending chemical from their blood.

But like many social media users in recent weeks, she had been drawn in by the latest QAnon outreach strategy.

QAnon first surfaced in 2017 with a series of anonymous posts on the internet forum 4chan claiming to reveal high-level government intelligence about crimes by top Democrats. It has since spawned one of the most disturbing and consequential conspiracy theory communities in modern history. Its followers have committed serious crimes, and its online vigilantes have made a sport of harassing and doxxing their perceived enemies. The F.B.I. has cited QAnon as a potential domestic terror threat, and social networks have begun trying to pull QAnon groups off their platforms. Dozens of QAnon-affiliated candidates are running for office this year. One of them, Marjorie Taylor Greene, won a primary runoff Tuesday for a House seat in Georgia, drawing a congratulatory tweet from Mr. Trump.

Like any movement, QAnon needs to win over new members. And its most recent growth strategy involves piggybacking on the anti-human-trafficking movement.

Credit…Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency

The idea, in a nutshell, is to create a groundswell of concern by flooding social media with posts about human trafficking, joining parenting Facebook groups and glomming on to hashtag campaigns like #SaveTheChildren, which began as a legitimate fund-raising campaign for the Save the Children charity. Then followers can shift the conversation to baseless theories about who they believe is doing the trafficking: a cabal of nefarious elites that includes Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey and Pope Francis.

Part of the strategy’s perverse brilliance is that child sex trafficking is a real, horrible thing, and some politically connected people, including the financier Jeffrey Epstein, have been credibly accused of exploiting underage girls. And speaking out against child exploitation, no matter your politics, is far from an objectionable stance.

“It’s probably one of the key things that’s attractive about QAnon,” said Marc-André Argentino, a doctoral student at Concordia University who studies QAnon’s social media presence. “Everyone agrees that child trafficking is very bad, and the argument QAnon makes is, ‘If you’re against us talking about this, you’re in favor of child trafficking.’”

Sometimes, QAnon followers spin factual information in a way that serves their aims. Last week, an Associated Press article about a $35 million Trump administration grant to organizations that house trafficking survivors became one of the most-shared stories on Facebook, after QAnon groups picked it up and cited it as evidence that President Trump’s secret crusade against elite pedophiles was underway.

Other times, the strategy involves latching on to conspiracy theories and inserting QAnon talking points. Weeks ago, influencers on TikTok and Instagram began speculating about baseless allegations that Wayfair, an online furniture site, was trafficking children under the guise of selling expensive cabinets. The conspiracy theory went viral, and QAnon believers began sprinkling in their own supposedly incriminating details. They claimed, falsely, that a Wayfair employee had once been photographed with Ghislaine Maxwell, who has been charged with recruiting underage girls for Mr. Epstein.

These allegations merged in the popular imagination, and soon unsuspecting people were sharing wild conspiracy theories that came straight from QAnon orthodoxy.

“With Wayfair, both accounts on the left and right were amplifying the content,” Mr. Argentino said. “A lot of the yoga moms and juice-cleanse-type circles were sharing it.”

The strategy of seeding QAnon talking points with different audiences appears to be working. In recent weeks, Facebook engagement on human-trafficking-related content has surged, according to an analysis of data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned data platform. (Interactions on posts with the #SaveTheChildren hashtag, for example, have grown more than 500 percent since early July.)

Prominent “mommy bloggers” and Instagram fitness influencers have begun posting anti-trafficking memes to their millions of followers. Even the Trump campaign has begun sharing more anti-trafficking content to its millions of Facebook and Twitter followers.

The QAnon strategy of pushing some unobjectionable, often factual content about human trafficking in addition to wild conspiracy theories has blurred the lines between legitimate anti-trafficking activism and partisan conspiracy mongering. Recently, some activists have marched in cities around the country demanding an end to child exploitation. Among them were QAnon believers, toting signs with messages like “Hollywood Eats Babies.”

For established anti-trafficking groups, the surge of support from internet conspiracy theorists has been a mixed blessing. Some activists, such as Tim Ballard, the founder of the anti-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad, see an opportunity to reach a new, hyper-engaged online audience.

“Some of these theories have allowed people to open their eyes,” Mr. Ballard said. “So now it’s our job to flood the space with real information so the facts can be shared.”

Others worry that QAnon will divert valuable resources from legitimate groups trying to stop trafficking. After the Wayfair incident, the Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline, issued a news release saying its hotline had been overwhelmed with false reports. It later published a blog post warning that “unsubstantiated claims and accusations about child sex trafficking can spin out of control and mislead well-meaning people into doing more harm than good.”


Credit…John Taggart for The New York Times.

I spoke to a number of longtime anti-trafficking activists who were alarmed by QAnon’s recent incursion onto their turf. They had worked for years to expose facts about child trafficking, only to see them distorted and misused by partisan opportunists. And they worried that in addition to clogging hotlines, QAnon believers could undermine the movement’s bipartisan credibility.

Erin Williamson, the U.S. programs director for Love146, an anti-trafficking group, said that in the weeks after the Wayfair incident, the group’s social media traffic had spiked by 30 percent, and that new donations had come in. But it had also been forced to spend time debunking online rumors and myths.

“It’s great that we have an increase in donations,” Ms. Williamson said. “But we don’t want to exploit disinformation for fund-raising purposes.”

The truth about child sex trafficking, these experts told me, is much less salacious than QAnon would have you believe. Many victims are trafficked by relatives, teachers or other people they know. Trafficking usually doesn’t involve kidnapping or physically forcing minors into sex.

“This is not happening in some secret cabal. It’s happening in every single community,” said Lori Cohen, the executive director of ECPAT-USA, an anti-trafficking organization. “But it’s easier to focus on public figures than to think about the reality that trafficking is happening in our midst, among people we know, to children we know.”

Some anti-trafficking experts worried that social networks, in an attempt to clamp down on QAnon, might inadvertently hurt the legitimate organizations working to end trafficking. Recently, Facebook briefly disabled the #SaveTheChildren hashtag after it was flooded with pro-QAnon content. (A Facebook spokesman said: “We temporarily blocked the hashtag as it was surfacing low-quality content. The hashtag has since been restored, and we will continue to monitor for content that violates our community standards.”)

And TikTok has been blocking searches for QAnon-related hashtags. A TikTok spokeswoman said the company was “working to proactively remove misinformation that we find associated with that hashtag.”

Mostly, anti-trafficking activists are just incredulous that QAnon has made their cause its own.

“When I talk to my friends in the anti-trafficking movement, we’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s Pizzagate all over again,’” Ms. Williamson of Love146 said. “And this time, it’s even worse.’”

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Regulators May Punish Deutsche Bank for Its Jeffrey Epstein Ties

Banking regulators have spent months investigating Jeffrey Epstein’s dealings with Deutsche Bank, which lent money to the disgraced financier and held dozens of accounts for him until shortly before he died, according to four people briefed on the matter but not authorized to speak publicly.

The investigation by the New York Department of Financial Services, which has not been previously reported, could result in an enforcement action against Deutsche Bank as soon as this month, before the first anniversary of Mr. Epstein’s arrest on federal sex-trafficking charges, the people said. Mr. Epstein was arrested on July 6 and died in federal custody in August; his death was ruled a suicide.

The investigation focuses, at least in part, on the bank’s decision to continue doing business with Mr. Epstein even after employees raised concerns, according to the people. Compliance officers in the bank’s anti-money-laundering operation alerted the federal government to several transactions in which Mr. Epstein sent money overseas in 2015, while employees worried about the reputational risks of doing business with a registered sex offender. Ultimately, senior bank executives opted to maintain the relationship with Mr. Epstein because it was so lucrative.

In addition to setting up dozens of accounts for Mr. Epstein, Deutsche Bank served as his lender from 2013 until last year, even as other banks considered him off-limits. Deutsche Bank began extricating itself from its relationship with Mr. Epstein in late 2018, after a series of articles in The Miami Herald examined the secret nonprosecution agreement federal prosecutors reached with him in 2007. Deutsche Bank told Mr. Epstein he had six months to move his money out of the bank.

Daniel Hunter, a Deutsche Bank spokesman, said the bank regarded its reputation as its “most precious asset.”

“We regret the decision to associate with Epstein,” he said.

After Mr. Epstein was arrested last July, Deutsche Bank executives began an internal investigation into the bank’s relationship with him. The examination includes studying how Mr. Epstein used his accounts and the bank’s decision to keep him as a client, even as other banks had distanced themselves from him.

Bank officials have been sharing their findings with New York regulators, according to the people briefed on the matter. The Department of Financial Services wields significant power over Deutsche Bank because the agency licenses it to operate in the state, where the bank has most of its U.S. operations.

If state regulators decide to punish Deutsche Bank, it would be the latest in a series of black eyes for the bank. Federal and state authorities in recent years have imposed billions of dollars of fines on the German bank for failing to stop money laundering and for violating sanctions, among other things. The bank also has been under scrutiny by congressional Democrats and state prosecutors for its role as the longtime banker to President Trump, his family and his companies.

An enforcement action against Deutsche Bank would be the first taken by regulators against any of the banks that Mr. Epstein used to handle his money as he built a fortune of more than $600 million, according to court filings by his estate. But other financial institutions and bankers are also being scrutinized by government officials in the United States and abroad.

The attorney general for the United States Virgin Islands, Denise George, subpoenaed years of records from First Bank, a Puerto Rico-based lender that had provided banking services to Mr. Epstein for nearly two decades, according two people briefed on that investigation but not authorized to speak publicly. In January, Ms. George’s office filed a civil forfeiture lawsuit against Mr. Epstein’s estate, in which she contends that Mr. Epstein misled government officials there for nearly two decades and used a private island hideaway to engage in sex trafficking.

Ms. George is also looking into millions of dollars of transactions conducted last year — both before and after Mr. Epstein’s death — at a little-known bank that he had established in the Virgin Islands called Southern Country International.

And bank regulators in Britain are looking into whether James E. Staley was transparent about the details of his relationship with Mr. Epstein when describing it to officials at Barclays, where Mr. Staley became chief executive in 2015. Barclays has stood behind Mr. Staley, who has said he had no contact with Mr. Epstein after 2015.

Before joining Barclays, Mr. Staley was a senior executive at JPMorgan Chase, where he helped cultivate that bank’s relationship with Mr. Epstein.

JPMorgan was Mr. Epstein’s primary bank for more than a decade, but some bank officials became uneasy about doing business with him after his 2008 guilty plea to soliciting prostitution from a minor in Florida. JPMorgan cut ties with Mr. Epstein after Mr. Staley left the bank in 2013.

That is when Mr. Epstein began working with Deutsche Bank. Paul Morris, a private banker who had recently arrived at the German bank from JPMorgan, brought Mr. Epstein on as a client, according to two of the people briefed on the matter. Mr. Morris, who left Deutsche Bank for another firm in 2016, did not respond to requests for comment.

The investigation could provide a rare glimpse into Mr. Epstein’s mysterious finances.

Mr. Epstein made a significant portion of his fortune while banking with Deutsche Bank, even though his criminal record had cost him his most lucrative client, Leslie Wexner, the billionaire retail magnate who built Victoria’s Secret into a household name. Mr. Wexner gave Mr. Epstein a sweeping power of attorney to manage all aspects of his financial affairs, but said he severed all ties with Mr. Epstein shortly before his guilty plea.

While Mr. Epstein was a client of Deutsche Bank, his main business was Southern Trust Company, which generated more than $250 million in revenues during its existence, according to public records. Mr. Epstein created the company in 2013 and told government officials in the Virgin Islands that it was involved in DNA analysis and research.

Ms. George, in her civil forfeiture lawsuit, contends that Southern Trust was not in the business it claimed to be and that Mr. Epstein misled government officials in order to win a lucrative tax break. She told The New York Times in March that her office had not yet determined the kind of business Southern Trust was in.

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Attorney General Sees Too Much Secrecy in Epstein Estate

Some of the same furtive techniques that Jeffrey Epstein employed in life are showing up in the litigation over dividing up the wealth he left behind when he died.

There are mysterious companies, lingering nondisclosure agreements and contractual clauses that some lawyers fear could protect anyone who took part in Mr. Epstein’s wrongdoing.

The estate’s lawyers say they have a plan to fairly distribute money to dozens of women who have accused Mr. Epstein of sexually abusing them as teenagers. But the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Mr. Epstein built a complex web of corporate entities, says Mr. Epstein’s money is still buying silence.

And in the middle is a fortune estimated at well over a half-billion dollars.

“We have a lot of concerns with respect to the transparency of the estate and its finances and the accounting of the estate,” the attorney general, Denise N. George, said in an interview last month.

Ms. George filed a civil forfeiture lawsuit against the estate in January, roughly five months after Mr. Epstein committed suicide while being held in federal custody in Manhattan after his arrest on sex trafficking charges. She said she sued to protect the interests of Mr. Epstein’s accusers and recoup some of the money that Mr. Epstein made during his two decades in the Virgin Islands.

The estate has insisted it is acting in the best interest of Mr. Epstein’s accusers. But it has also provided an incomplete accounting of his finances, according to records reviewed by The New York Times.

At least one business — IGO Company L.L.C., a corporate entity established by Mr. Epstein in December 2006 — was left out of the estate’s court filings. The company, which lists Mr. Epstein as its sole owner, was still active and in good standing as of Monday, according to a U.S. Virgin Islands government site.

Lawyers for the estate did not respond to a request for comment. The co-executors of the estate are Darren Indyke, a lawyer, and Richard Kahn, an accountant. Both men worked closely with Mr. Epstein for many years and were listed as officers for some of his businesses.


Credit…Gabriella N. Baez for The New York Times

Credit…Gabriella N. Baez for The New York Times

Much of the fighting between the estate and Ms. George’s office involves a plan to establish a victims’ compensation fund, which would allow accusers to receive payments from the estate without a potentially costly court case. The estate’s representatives say the proposed fund — which would be set up with the help of the specialist who ran the compensation program for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — would allow accusers to receive money quickly and privately.

But Ms. George said the estate wanted to attach too many strings to those payments.

On April 7, Ms. George’s office told the probate court handling Mr. Epstein’s will that she and the estate had reached an impasse over the estate’s demand that victims who take part in the fund agree to a broad release that would bar them from suing any party “whether they participated negligently or intentionally in wrongdoing themselves.”

To Ms. George, the estate’s conduct was a reminder of the legal maneuvers that surrounded Mr. Epstein’s guilty plea 12 years ago to soliciting prostitution from a minor in Florida. In 2007, federal prosecutors agreed to a wide-ranging nonprosecution agreement that covered Mr. Epstein’s named and unnamed co-conspirators. (A federal appeals court this month rejected a legal challenge brought by one of his victims to the agreement.)

Ms. George’s office said the estate now wanted to “secure similarly broad protection for Epstein’s compatriots-in-crime from their victims.”

Lawyers for the estate reject that argument. In their response, they said Ms. George had mischaracterized the situation and said two lawyers representing several accusers were ready to move forward with the fund. The estate’s lawyers contend the liability release is “modeled on releases employed in multiple voluntary compensation programs.” Its intent, they say, is to make sure a victim does not double-dip by getting compensation from the fund and then suing an individual affiliated with the estate who might be entitled to be legally reimbursed by the estate.

The particulars of how Mr. Epstein made his millions have long been a mystery, in particular after his 2008 conviction. Financial filings the estate has made so far have raised as many questions as they have answered.

In January, the estate filed a required report that, along with routine transactions to pay bills and other expenses, showed the estate had transferred more than $12 million to Southern Country International, a little-known private bank Mr. Epstein had established in 2014.

The magistrate judge overseeing the probate of the will, Carolyn Hermon-Purcell, questioned the estate’s lawyers about the transfers and asked for a fuller accounting. The estate has not yet filed an explanation; the territory’s courts have granted blanket extensions because of the coronavirus outbreak.

But according to four people familiar with the matter, the estate’s $12 million payment to the bank involved preparations for Mr. Epstein’s criminal case. Mr. Epstein used the bank to pay a $12 million retainer fee to the criminal defense attorney Reid Weingarten, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter has not been made public.

In mid-December, Mr. Weingarten’s law firm, Steptoe & Johnson, returned the unused portion of that retainer — roughly $11 million, according to the estate’s first quarterly filing. The next day the estate sent that money to the bank.

What happened to the money in Southern Country after that is not clear; the estate reported the bank had a year-end balance of just $500,000.

Southern Country is an unusual kind of bank: an international banking entity, which is limited to conducting business for customers overseas. Mr. Epstein was approved for his license in 2014, but the bank had not commenced doing business as of April 2018, according to a letter the bank sent to its regulator.

According to two people briefed on the matter, Mr. Epstein began to move money to Southern Country last spring after Deutsche Bank, his longtime bank, decided to sever all ties with him in response to a series of stories about Mr. Epstein by The Miami Herald.

Ms. George’s office is small compared with her mainland counterparts, and she has bulked up its resources by hiring a forensic accountant and outside lawyers with Motley Rice, a large plaintiffs’ litigation firm. But it has been active.

In recent weeks, Ms. George’s office sent a subpoena seeking bank records for Mr. Epstein’s businesses in the Virgin Islands, according to two people briefed on the matter. She also subpoenaed some records from the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority, the government agency that granted lucrative tax benefits to Mr. Epstein’s companies, said Tracy Bhola, an authority lawyer.

According to one person familiar with the matter, Ms. George’s office has also made a demand for information from Mr. Epstein’s former girlfriend and business associate Ghislaine Maxwell, who recently filed a lawsuit against the estate asking it to cover her legal fees for any claims brought against her by his accusers.

Ms. George’s office has also reached out to some of Mr. Epstein’s former employees in the Virgin Islands. She said her office was trying to navigate around nondisclosure agreements that Mr. Epstein had signed with many of his them. She said the estate should commit to releasing the employees from those agreements.

“Just the existence of an N.D.A. casts a shadow or chilling effect on anyone speaking freely,” she said.

While many of Mr. Epstein’s companies — including IGO Company L.L.C. — continue to exist on paper, there is little left of their physical operations.

Those include Southern Trust, once Mr. Epstein’s main business venture, which generated $300 million in profits in just six years. Mr. Epstein had said it was a DNA research firm, although Ms. George said her office had found no evidence it engaged in that kind of work. Southern Trust alone is valued at $234 million, and the estate has yet to disclose where most of its assets are being held.

For months after his death, employees still showed up at the company’s office in the American Yacht Harbor club on St. Thomas. That stopped in late February, and by the start of last month the office doors were secured with a padlock.

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Jeffrey Epstein Gave $850,000 to M.I.T., and Administrators Knew

Over 15 years, the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein repeatedly donated to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Top administrators knew about the gifts, felt conflicted about them, and accepted them anyway. The university’s president even signed a thank-you note.

But on Friday, months after the campus was roiled by revelations of Mr. Epstein’s financial ties to the school’s prominent Media Lab program, investigators hired by the school absolved M.I.T.’s leadership of breaking any rules.

The law firm Goodwin Procter spent four months compiling a report on M.I.T.’s dealings with Mr. Epstein, who killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell in August while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges. The investigation found that Mr. Epstein made 10 donations — totaling $850,000, slightly more than M.I.T. had previously disclosed — from 2002 to 2017. Mr. Epstein also visited campus at least nine times from 2013 to 2017, a period that followed his conviction on sex charges involving a minor in Florida.

The university took action against only one person still connected with the school: Seth Lloyd, a mechanical engineering professor who previously acknowledged accepting money from Mr. Epstein, was placed on paid leave. The report found that Mr. Lloyd had “purposefully failed” to inform M.I.T. of multiple donations from Mr. Epstein, including a $60,000 gift deposited into his personal bank account.

The report concluded that Mr. Epstein’s visits, along with any donations made after his 2008 conviction in Florida, had been enabled by Mr. Lloyd or Joichi Ito, the former director of the Media Lab who stepped down in September. (Mr. Ito also resigned from The New York Times Company’s board.)

The 61-page report, based on dozens of interviews and a review of more than 610,000 emails and documents, cleared others of wrongdoing, including the university’s president, L. Rafael Reif. Mr. Reif acknowledged last year that he had signed a letter thanking Mr. Epstein for a donation in 2012, but the report said he “had no role in approving” the donations.

One current and two former M.I.T. vice presidents who learned of Mr. Epstein’s donations in 2013 and began quietly approving them were rebuked in the report, but not disciplined because it concluded that they had not broken any university policies.

The three vice presidents — R. Gregory Morgan, Jeffrey Newton and Israel Ruiz — made “significant errors in judgment that resulted in serious damage to the M.I.T. community,” according to the report.

Mr. Ruiz is the school’s executive vice president and treasurer, although the university announced last month that he would step down this semester for a career outside of academia. The announcement made no mention of the Epstein scandal.

Mr. Ruiz said in a statement that he was confident that the university’s leadership and broader community would “create an effective and successful path forward.”

Mr. Morgan and Mr. Newton have retired from the university. They did not respond to requests for comment.

According to the report, the men debated whether to accept Mr. Epstein’s money “in the absence of any M.I.T. policy regarding controversial gifts.” They reached a compromise: Under “an informal framework,” the school would accept the donations while insisting that the gifts be small and unpublicized to prevent Mr. Epstein from using them to improve his reputation or gain influence at the university, the report said.

Efforts to reclassify Mr. Epstein’s donations as anonymous “made it impossible for all but a select few to see the number or amount of Epstein donations,” the school’s executive committee said in a statement. The committee called for university employees “to take steps to protect and ensure the integrity and factual accuracy of the donor database.”

Denis A. Bovin, a member of the executive committee, said at a news conference that M.I.T. had not thought it would need a policy concerning gifts from someone with Mr. Epstein’s past.

“We never thought in our history that we’d have this kind of problem,” he said.

Mr. Lloyd, the professor, is now under review in the mechanical engineering department, with proceedings “moving swiftly,” Alan G. Spoon, a member of M.I.T.’s board of trustees, said during a conference call with reporters.

Mr. Lloyd, who was introduced by his book agent to Mr. Epstein in 2004, declined to comment.

The report focused heavily on Mr. Ito, the former Media Lab director, who acknowledged raising $1.7 million from Mr. Epstein for the lab and his own outside investment funds. The disclosure raised an uproar at a program that prides itself on its contrarian culture.

Mr. Ito, a master networker who raised at least $50 million for the Media Lab, met Mr. Epstein in 2013 at a TED conference in California and then “cultivated” the financier as a donor and a link to other wealthy people, according to the report.

Mr. Ito resigned from the Media Lab in September. He also stepped down from several other boards and a visiting professorship at Harvard. He did not respond to a request for comment.

The report found that Mr. Epstein’s presence on campus had disturbed Media Lab staff members — investigators were told that Mr. Epstein was sometimes accompanied by young female assistants — and that Mr. Ito probably sensed their nervousness. In 2013, Mr. Ito expressed concern that a proposed campus visit from Mr. Epstein and the director Woody Allen could result in a public relations headache, investigators found. A Media Lab communications employee distributed photos of one event to other people at the lab, writing in an email that they should “feel free to post on social media — as long as Jeffrey Epstein does not appear in any of the photos!”

News reports about other internal emails previously demonstrated how Media Lab officials had obfuscated Mr. Epstein’s relationship with the program. The emails included references to donations from other wealthy figures that purportedly involved Mr. Epstein.

In one 2014 email, Mr. Ito wrote that a $2 million gift from the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had been “directed by Jeffrey Epstein.” In a subsequent email, another lab official wrote that “for gift recording purposes, we will not be mentioning Jeffrey’s name as the impetus for this gift.” In another email exchange, Mr. Ito discussed how Mr. Epstein was helping to connect the lab to Leon Black, the founder of Apollo Global Management, a prominent private equity fund. One email indicated that Mr. Black had given the lab $4 million.

Mr. Gates has denied that Mr. Epstein directed grant-making on his behalf. A representative for Mr. Black said he could not immediately be reached for comment.

Roberto Braceras, a Goodwin Procter partner who led the investigation, said on the conference call that his team spoke with representatives of Mr. Gates, who “deny that any Gates donation had any relationship to anything regarding Epstein.” He said Mr. Black’s representatives could not be reached, but added that “there’s no evidence that Black’s donations were the result of Epstein’s encouragement.”

The university has already set up two faculty-led committees to work on new policies for gifts and the vetting of donors. Those committees are expected to deliver their recommendations in the spring, and the executive committee said administrators should work closely with them to put such policies in place as soon as possible.

Crystal Lee, a graduate student at M.I.T., said she was relieved that Mr. Lloyd was no longer teaching students. But she said the report did not answer all the questions she had.

“I am still troubled by many of the specific details of the case that will go unresolved with the report’s air of finality,” she said.

For example, she said, the university offers only “woefully inadequate” support for mental health, despite the circumstances of the scandal.

“I am optimistic that M.I.T. can and should change, if only because of my fellow students, who have done so much work to make this campus a better place,” she said.

Kate Kelly contributed reporting. Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.