The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has found piles of cash, diamonds and a fake Saudi passport at the home of Jeffrey Epstein, the US billionaire arrested last week on suspicion of sex-trafficking underage girls.
At a bail hearing in a New York federal court yesterday, Assistant US Attorney Alex Rossmiller disclosed that Epstein has a locked safe filled with cash and diamonds at his home on the city's Upper East Side.
The safe also contained an expired passport bearing Epstein's photograph, although the passport is registered under a different name and lists him as a resident of Saudi Arabia, Vice News reported.
As a result of this – as well as the fact that he owns a private jet, several mansions and a private island – Epstein is considered a severe flight risk. US federal prosecutors are now working to ensure that Epstein is remanded in custody while he awaits trial, rather than being granted bail and allowed to remain in his $77 million mansion.
The prosecutors' bid to deny Epstein bail is likely also motivated by his previously-lenient jail terms. In 2008 Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting underage girls for prostitution, paying dozens of 14 and 15-year olds to perform sex acts over a period of six years. He then spent 13 months in county jail, but was allowed to leave prison six days per week to go to work.
This arrangement was secured under a plea deal reached by then-Florida Federal Prosecutor, Alex Acosta, who subsequently went on to become Labour Secretary under US President Donald Trump. Following Epstein's arrest last weekend on fresh charges of sexually exploiting underage girls, Acosta announced his resignation amid fierce criticism of his handling of the 2008 case.
Since Epstein's arrest, the story has ensnared several prominent figures including President Trump, former US President Bill Clinton, the UK's Prince Andrew and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
According to an exposé published last week, Barak – who served as Israel's prime minister between 1999 and 2001 and recently announced his formation of a new party, Israel Democratic Party (Yisrael Demokratit), ahead of the country's general election in September – held business ties with Epstein as recently as 2015.
Barak reportedly set up a limited partnership called Sum (E.B.) in 2015, which then invested in Reporty Homeland Security, a company which provides geolocation technology for the emergency services. Reporty changed its name to Carbyne in 2018. Barak serves as the chairman of Carbyne, with his multi-million dollar investment in the company thought to have been financed by Epstein.
The revelations have left Barak reeling, particularly given the huge pressure applied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called for his election rival to be "investigated immediately" over his ties to the US billionaire. On Sunday Barak announced that, in light of the accusations made against Epstein, he had instructed his lawyers to look into breaking off the partnership.
Writing on Facebook, Barak explained: "For almost five years, a company associated with Epstein has been a passive investor in a limited partnership, legally registered in Israel and under my control […] As soon as the present charges related to Epstein became known, I instructed my lawyers to examine the options we have for expelling the company associated with Epstein from this partnership."
The story has, however, refused to subside. In an interview published yesterday, Barak explained that "the man who introduced me to Epstein about 17 years ago was Shimon Peres," another former prime minister of Israel. Barak admitted that, since then, he has met Epstein "more than 10 times and much less than a hundred times, but I can't tell you exactly how many. I don't keep count".
Barak stressed, however, that "I never attended a party with him. I never met Epstein in the company of women or young girls".
As the Epstein case continues, the affair and Barak's links to the accused are likely to dominate Israel's campaign trail. With election day almost exactly two months away, Netanyahu has jumped at the chance to go on the offensive, detracting from his own pending court appearance on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as well as the Israeli public's lack of enthusiasm for the country's second election this year.