How much does it cost to silence an alleged victim of sexual abuse? Half a million dollars. Or so claim Prince Albert’s attorneys, who on Tuesday requested that Manhattan Judge Lewis Kaplan dismiss the charges brought against the Duke of York by Virginia Roberts Giuffre. Ms. Giuffre, who was 17 at the time, claims to have been sexually abused by “royals, politicians, academics, businessmen and/or professionals and personal acquaintances” related to the U.S. billionaire Jeffrey Epstein and his British socialite accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell. Ms. Giuffre claims that among them was the son of Queen Elizabeth II, too.
Judicial proceedings aside, Prince Andrew’s is only one of many names in the list of celebrities who would hobnob with Epstein and Maxwell. The roster includes the likes of former presidents Bill Clinton – who traveled on Epstein’s private jet on several occasions between 2002 and 2003 – and Donald Trump. The then-New York-tycoon-turned-GOP-guru was somewhat prophetic in a 2002 interview, calling his friend Epstein “a terrific guy (who) likes beautiful women as much as I do”, specifying that many among the latter were “on the younger side.” Naturally, all friendly claims were promptly retracted as the scandal made its way into the headlines. Both presidents hastened to clarify that they have not kept in touch with Epstein for at least a decade.
Be that as it may, among the Brooklyn-born billionaire’s acquaintances was the crème de la crème of the Upper East Side salons where politicians meet artists, and foreign dignitaries sip martinis side by side with movie stars under the auspicious patronage of well-connected socialites like Maxwell. Such a cocooned environment, however, can sometimes let the rot set in. To be sure, not all of Epstein’s acquaintances could have known what was going on behind the scenes as young girls were handed over to a clientele of influential middle-aged men. It is also more than reasonable to think that Epstein would not shout his sexual offerings from the rooftops, and most of his acquaintances could probably be unaware of it.
Yet murkiness is a good word to describe the aura surrounding Epstein and Maxwell, not only because of the carnal side of those sexual gatherings. The lives of the two protagonists share several obscure features: Epstein, born in Brooklyn from Jewish parents, managed to climb the heights of the banking-financial sector and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, constantly surrounded by attractive young girls and his partner-confidant Ghislaine. Ms. Maxwell, on the other hand, owes much of her wealth to her late father Robert, a British publishing mogul of Czechoslovakian origins who shared with Epstein a penchant for the high life. For that matter, Mr. Epstein and Mr. Maxwell also share something else: a mysterious death.
Ms. Maxwell would introduce Epstein to models and young girls, and in turn, he would introduce them to some of his well-disposed clientele. So much for the judicially ascertained version. Then there is a terra incognita of more or less plausible theories. Take, for instance, the fake Austrian passport the Feds found in Epstein’s Upper East Side residence during a 2019 search. What was Epstein doing with it? And why did it indicate Saudi Arabia as his place of residence? Epstein must have surely cared a great deal about his fabricated document, which he kept in an armored safe along with $70,000 in cash and 48 rough diamonds.
This is where Alexander Acosta, former Trump administration Secretary of Labor, enters the picture. As District Attorney for South Florida, in 2008, the Republican lawyer was handed a series of allegations that could have cost Epstein life in prison. Yet, as the Miami Herald found out, Acosta chose to haggle with Epstein’s attorneys, striking a decidedly low-ball compromise: the billionaire would spend three months in a private wing of a county jail, from which he could walk away six days a week in order to work in his private office. Many believe it was not exactly a matter of Christian compassion, speculating (without evidence) that Acosta may have been somehow “rewarded” for his clemency.
Ten years later, Acosta himself sought to clarify the matter. “I was told Epstein belonged to the intelligence community and to leave it alone,” he explained to his GOP colleagues before his confirmation as a cabinet member. While one doubt might be dispelled, another one promptly surfaces: assuming Epstein was indeed a spy – as the fake Austrian passport and Acosta’s words appear to suggest – which country’s intelligence service would he be serving in? The passport was reportedly used several times throughout the 1980s, when Epstein used to work as a bounty hunter on behalf of very wealthy clients. That was the last decade of the Cold War, which began with Carter and Brezhnev and ended with Reagan and Gorbachev. But it was also the decade of the bloody Iran-Iraq war, in which the Israeli secret involvement turned out to be remarkably helpful to the ayatollahs.
Ari Ben-Menashe, a self-styled official of the Israeli military intelligence from 1977 to 1987, made quite a bold statement in his latest book Epstein: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2020). He claims the underage girls’ ring would have served Epstein and Maxwell to carry out a “honey-trap” scheme, where the two would record politicians and relevant personalities as they satiated their sexual appetite with minors, later to blackmail them on behalf of Israel’s Mossad. Although a fanciful hypothesis, it is not too technically far-fetched: one of Epstein’s young victims claimed surveillance cameras were ubiquitous in his Manhattan property, and some CCTV tapes were actually found in an armored safe.
“See, f*cking around is not a crime. It could be embarrassing, but it’s not a crime,” Ben-Menashe wrote. “But f*cking a 14-year-old girl is a crime. And he was taking photos of politicians f**king fourteen-year-old girls.” He also claims it was Ghislaine Maxwell’s father, Robert, who would have “hired” Epstein on behalf of the Israelis. The delicate claims of such a controversial figure like Ben-Menashe, however, should be taken at least with a grain of salt. Israeli intelligence has repeatedly claimed it does not know him, although a U.S. jury in 1990 accepted that he had indeed had ties with the country’s military intelligence, where Ben-Menashe supposedly used to work as a Persian translator in Latin America.
There is a final curious coincidence that links Epstein and Ben-Menashe. The common denominators are the 1980s and the Arms Export Control Act enacted by the Carter and Reagan administrations against the Iranian regime. In 1989, Ben-Menashe spent a year in prison for allegedly selling three Israeli military planes to the Khomeini regime (he was later acquitted). In the same years, Epstein had been hired by the ultra-rich businessman Adnan Khashoggi from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – coincidentally, the place of residence in Epstein’s fake passport. And it is precisely Adnan Khashoggi who ended up in the sights of the federal Iran-Contra federal investigators as a middleman in the sale of U.S. weapons to Iran through Israel.
Although intriguing, such hypotheses fall short of providing a smoking gun that could stop the Epstein-related speculations. However, these have possibly multiplied after the financier was found lifeless in his New York City prison cell under suspicious circumstances. Did he take his own life out of shame? Was he killed because he knew too much? What was the purpose of the passport found in his safe? Was it an intelligence cover, or a ploy to avoid being recognized by potential kidnappers on his frequent trips to the Middle East? Whether Epstein was a Mossad agent, an intermediary for the sale of arms to Iran, or a mere sexual trafficker with many powerful friends, the feeling is that the judicial truth could have only scratched the tip of the iceberg.