Millionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s death has raised many questions. With his accusers seeking compensation, there is speculation about where his wealth came from, how much there is, and what happens to his fortune now.
The 66-year-old, who was arrested and jailed on July 6 on charges of sexually abusing and trafficking underage girls, was found dead in his jail cell on Saturday. While his death was initially reported as an apparent hanging suicide (despite the fact he was on suicide watch following a previous attempt to take his own life), the medical examiner declined to name suicide as the cause of death and said a further investigation was in order.
Moreover, Epstein’s death may be a relief for many powerful figures around the world who were allegedly frequent guests on Epstein’s Lolita Express jet and his ‘pedophile island’. These include Britain’s Prince Andrew, former President Bill Clinton, and other US politicians and businessmen. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the financier’s death “way too convenient,” wondering how many “other millionaires and billionaires were part of” Epstein’s “illegal activities.”
US Attorney General William Barr stressed on Monday that the financier’s death would not stop the investigation into possible accomplices in recruiting and trafficking young girls.
“Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it,” Barr said. Federal prosecutors are now likely to file cases for civil forfeiture against Epstein’s estate. However, this may be the tricky part, as so much about Epstein’s wealth remains unknown.
The mystery of Jeffrey Epstein’s wealth
Epstein came from a middle-class family in Brooklyn, New York. Despite dropping out of college, he somehow managed to become a math teacher at one of Manhattan’s elite schools. Ironically, he was hired by the father of current Attorney General William Barr, Donald Barr. He was a popular teacher and one of his students’ parents secured him a job at Bear Stearns, one of Wall Street’s largest investment banks at the time. Six years later, in 1982, the financier started his own wealth management firm, J. Epstein & Co., offering anything from tax advice to investment strategies to wealthy investors. In the role of adviser, Epstein mysteriously befriended billionaire retail tycoon Leslie Wexner, chief executive of L Brands which owns renowned labels such as Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret. And for about 16 years, Epstein virtually had blanket control of the mogul’s finances, including the authority to sign checks, borrow money, buy and sell real estate, and hire workers on Wexner’s behalf.
In a letter to his charitable foundation, Wexner accused Epstein of misappropriating “vast sums” of his conglomerate’s money. Wexner claims the two broke ties in 2007, after Epstein sullied his reputation with a conviction of paying for sex with an underage girl. However, Wexner did not reveal the alleged money misappropriation by Epstein until last week, and claims he knew nothing about Epstein’s history of abuse of young girls.
How much was Epstein worth?
In a plea for bail filed by Epstein’s lawyers last month, the disgraced financier put the value of his assets at about $559 million. This includes two private islands, an enormous ranch in New Mexico, and three homes. One of his residences is a huge mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan which is worth $77 million. He also owns an apartment in Paris and a home in Palm Beach, Florida, as well as two private planes and dozens of automobiles.
However, the media claims the figure in the bail plea is far less than the billions he was said to have possessed prior to his arrest. So now the investigators are left to find out how much money Epstein actually had and where he may have hidden it. Although, of course, his wealth could technically have been exaggerated by the media which is hungry for sensation, or may have simply declined due to the financial crisis.
What happens to Epstein’s money now?
Lawyers for several women who say they were sexually abused by Epstein when they were underage have announced plans to file civil suits against his estate following his death. So part of the money may go as payment for moral damages to an unknown number of alleged victims.
Also, it is not yet known if Epstein had a will. His criminal lawyers did not respond to requests for comment on the matter, Reuters reported. Los Angeles attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents two of Epstein’s alleged victims, said she hopes his assets will not be distributed until the victims’ claims are litigated.
“If we find out the estate is selling off things, dissipating assets, we will go in for a court order,” Bloom said. It is also not clear whether the estate will try to shield Epstein’s assets from his alleged victims, according to New York lawyer Roberta Kaplan, also working on the case. She said, if anything, lawyers now need to dig deep into the departed financier’s finances.
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