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Jeffrey Epstein’s famous friends: The Epstein Papers

Jeffrey Epstein at Palm Beach County, courthouse
Image Credit: Sipa US / Alamy Stock Photo | Above: Jeffrey Epstein (center) at a Palm Beach County, Florida, courtroom on the 30th July 2008, where he pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges.

In 2015, Gawker published the details of Jeffrey Epstein’s little black book. In it were the details for everyone from Ralph Fiennes to Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister, Courtney Love to Bill Clinton. There were politicians, royalty, A-list actors and a former Miss Sweden. As Epstein himself once said in a 2002 profile in New York magazine, ‘I invest in people.’

Epstein was savvy investor; from the early days of his career as a teacher in a private school (a job he got without a degree), he impressed his way into a career on Wall Street via a parent-teacher conference. His investments always seemed to pay off. So who were the people he took an interest in—his roster of famous friends?

One of his closest was Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and daughter of daughter British publishing mogul Robert Maxwell. Once in a romantic relationship with Epstein in the early 1990s, their friendship continued for decades afterwards, with Epstein describing her as his best friend. It’s also been reported (including in an account by Epstein accuser and alleged victim Virginia Giuffre) that she played an active part in procuring underage girls for Epstein. She was also key to his introduction into the societal circles he moved in. It was Maxwell who knew both the Clintons (she was at Chelsea’s wedding) and Prince Andrew, whom she later introduced to Epstein.

The billionaire’s friendship with the Queen’s third child also dates back to the 1990s. They attended parties, dinners and fundraisers together. They went on holiday to Thailand together, where they were pictured on board a yacht surrounded by women. In 2010, when Epstein was released from prison, following a conviction in 2008, Andrew was seen with him again, the pair walking together in Central Park. He was later spotted emerging from Epstein’s mansion. Though the prince has since been named in Guiffre’s accounts of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Epstein, the Palace has always denied any improper behaviour from him and he himself has said he was at a Pizza Express in Woking on one of the nights in question.

Both Andrew and Epstein were seen partying together with another of Epstein’s famous acquaintances Donald Trump, at his Mar-A-Lago resort. In another New York magazine profile, the President described Epstein as a ‘terrific guy.’ Other comments form him have aged similarly badly. Trump has been trying to distance himself from his connection with Epstein for years, denying a friendship in 2017 and saying in 2019 they had not spoken since a falling out 15 years earlier.

Then there’s that other White House connection, Bill Clinton, who is said to have taken at least four trips on Epstein’s private plane (more commonly known as the Lolita Express) and flight logs suggest there might have been more—once, with Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker in tow. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has reported that both Bill and Hilary Clinton were frequent visitors at Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico. Clinton, himself, has denied every visiting one of Epstein’s properties, as well as any knowledge of his activities with underage girls. A statement made on his behalf claimed the two men had not spoken for over a decade.

Implicated in those same flight logs (and by Guiffre) is Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law professor known for defending the likes of OJ Simpson. Dershowitz has also denied the accusations against him. On Twitter, he claimed to have been ‘framed for financial reasons’.

Speaking of finances, Epstein’s financial and social investments collided with Leslie Wexner, the founder of Victoria Secrets. Wexner was Epstein’s mentor; at one point they were neighbours. He was Epstein’s top client (in fact, his only known client). Epstein became a trustee of the Wexner Foundation. Their business relationship raised eyebrows at the time. It got stranger when Epstein somehow came to own Wexner’s New York mansion, for which he may only have paid a dollar. Then, in 2007, matters came to a head between them when Wexner tried to sever ties following the sexual abuse allegations. After that, Wexner claims, more than $46 million from his personal fortune disappeared.

But Epstein’s ‘friends’ weren’t limited to those heading the political and business worlds, nor actual royalty. There were plenty of Hollywood royalty numbered within the ranks. Naomi Campbell was introduced to Epstein by her businessman boyfriend at the time, Flavio Briatore, at her birthday in 2001.

It’s obvious what Epstein got out of these relationships, what was in it for them?

Then there’s Woody Allen, who is known to have made several appearances with Epstein, including at a dinner Epstein hosted in 2011, after the sexual abuse allegations had come to light. At that same dinner were Katie Couric, Chelsea Handler and George Stephanopoulos.

Epstein also claimed he was advising Elon Musk for Tesla.

But while it’s obvious what Epstein got out of these relationships, what was in it for them? Not everyone connected to the paedophile has been similarly accused of wrongdoing.

We know money and connection can be an effective smokescreen for other behaviour and Epstein clearly had plenty of both. There is no doubt he was both enabled and excused by those same connections. Then there’s the fact he’s been described as both charming and a sociopath capable of manipulating people (as a former girlfriend reported to Vanity Fair). Maxwell also seems crucial: she is the link between everyone from Prince Andrew and Epstein to Naomi Campbell— Guiffre reported the two women were ‘BFFs’.

Epstein himself said he collected people. In that same Vanity Fair piece, an ex-girlfriend quotes him as saying, ‘I control everyone and everything, I collect people, I own people, I can damage people.’ He was also a man who worked in secrets. Speaking in a piece for the New York Times, he eluded to the personal, embarrassing and damaging information he had on his famous connections. When you know he had his properties rigged with surveillance cameras for blackmail purposes, you begin to wonder what he might have known and something else: how willing those ‘friends’ really were.

The Epstein Papers

It might have been over three years since Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier and sex offender, died by suicide in his prison cell in 2019, but his name is once again the subject of speculation after court documents related to his case and that of co-conspirator, Ghislaine Maxwell, have been released to the public. With them come the release of previously redacted names, including those of the rich and famous.

Here’s what we know.

What are the Epstein Papers?

The documents that have been released come from a case Virginia Guiffre, one of Epstein’s most outspoken accusers, brought against Ghislaine Maxwell.

Maxwell was found guilty of grooming and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2021, but these documents come from a civil lawsuit from 2015, when Guiffre sued Maxwell for defamation after the latter described Guiffre’s accusations against her and Epstein as lies. The case was settled in 2017.

Guiffre also went on to sue Prince Andrew for ‘sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress’. This case was also settled.

On Wednesday 3rd January 2024, 40 of approximately 250 documents were released.

How did they come out?

Federal judge Loretta A. Preska ordered the papers to be released. Preska has been reviewing the documents for years after the Miami Herald made a petition to access them in 2018. This is the latest batch to come out. The first records were released in 2019. The following day, Epstein was found dead in his cell by suicide.

Subsequent batches were released in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The latest documents were held back over privacy concerns. The only names left redacted belong to victims of sexual abuse.

What is on them?

The papers released relate to Maxwell’s case and include legal arguments, transcripts of her depositions and interviews with Epstein accusers, including Johanna Sjoberg.

They also contain 150 names of people mentioned in the Epstein lawsuit. This includes victims, witnesses and people who haven’t been accused of wrongdoing, as well as known associates of Epstein.

They were sealed or redacted to protect the identity of those mentioned, but as Preska acknowledged, much of what’s on them is already out there. Some of those named have given media interviews, members of his staff have talked to the tabloids, and other names came out through Maxwell’s trial.

Who is mentioned in the Epstein Papers?

More importantly than the 'what' is the 'who'. Epstein collected relationships with the rich, famous and powerful while he was alive and there was rampant speculation on social media that the papers would read as a condemnatory list of Epstein’s co-conspirators.

However, as Judge Preska noted, the revelations were limited. Though there were further accusations levelled against men including Prince Andrew, many were known associates of Epstein, like Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, who have also already denied any involvement in his crimes.

More surprising were the names of Hollywood stars and celebrities. Michael Jackson and David Copperfield were both named by Sjoberg, who stated she’d met them through Epstein, however, neither were accused of any wrongdoing. It is thought they were friends and associates.

Of the other celebrities whose names cropped up, Sjoberg denied meeting many of them through Epstein, like Cameron Diaz, Bruce Willis and Leonardo Di Caprio, but said Epstein would frequently name-drop.

What do we know?

Ultimately, the release of the records has added little to what we already knew.

Of Clinton, Sjoberg said only Epstein had alluded to an interest in young girls. In 2019, a spokesperson for Clinton denied the former president had any knowledge of Epstein’s crimes and said he’d cut contact with Epstein in 2005.

In a similar vein, Trump’s name was mentioned only in passing during a flight, with Epstein telling Sjoberg they could call Trump and visit his casino after a plane they were on needed to be diverted to Atlantic City.

More damningly, Sjoberg has accused Prince Andrew of groping her, alleging he put a hand on her breast while they were sitting on a sofa at Epstein’s mansion in New York in 2001. Both Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace have previously denied all of the allegations against him, although the palace declined to comment on the most recent documents as the Duke of York is no longer a working royal.