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Billionaire abuse allegations: why the Jeffrey Epstein case could cause problems for the Trump administration

Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew were among his friends. Jeffrey Epstein has been behind bars since the weekend. The well-known hedge fund manager is at the center of what is perhaps one of the greatest cases of abuse in recent years. Its connections with the White House in particular raise questions.

Jeffrey Epstein fell deeply. In his native USA, the 66-year-old hedge fund manager's name once stood for luxury in abundance and a life in the fast lane. Epstein celebrated lavish parties in villas, loved the company of beautiful, mostly young women, and liked to surround himself with the rich and powerful. His friends included Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, among others.

Epstein has meanwhile swapped life in the luxury villas for one behind Swedish curtains. He was arrested at the weekend and has been in custody ever since. He was not allowed to leave bail. According to the public prosecutor, there is a risk of escape.

The allegations made against him are serious and have what it takes to become one of the largest cases of abuse in recent American history. For several years, the 66-year-old hedge fund manager is said to have sexually abused underage girls and maintained a sex slave ring with them in New York and Florida. The girls, some of them only 13 years old, are said to have been available to Epstein and his sometimes powerful friends for sexual satisfaction. With a pyramid scheme, Epstein is also said to have ensured a steady supply of new girls. Lured with large sums of cash, the victims were tempted to bring in more underage girls. The New York prosecutor's office made these allegations in an indictment published on Monday. The crimes are said to have occurred between 2002 and 2005.

Rise to high society in New York

The case is making waves in the United States. Epstein has been known to the American public for years for his dazzling lifestyle.

Born in 1953 to a Jewish family, Epstein spent most of his childhood in Brooklyn, New York. After completing his mathematics studies without a degree, he first worked as a math teacher before joining the investment bank Bear Stearns as a punter in 1976. There he became a member of the management in 1980. Two years later he founded his own asset management company with J. Epstein & Co., specialized in investments for billionaires and made a lot of money himself. His customers included Leslie Wexner, the owner of the well-known women's underwear chain Victoria’s Secret.

Although he is often referred to as a billionaire in the media, the size of his fortune is unknown. The American magazine "Forbes" does not list Epstein as a billionaire. Still, it is estimated that his fortune lies within this range. In addition to a villa in Florida, he owns a ranch in New Mexico, an apartment in Paris, two private jets and an island in the Virgin Islands.

Allegations against Prince Andrew

Thanks to his professional success, he rose to so-called high society in New York over the years. He threw legendary parties in his mansion on the Upper East Side in Manhattan and invited celebrities such as ex-President Bill Clinton, Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey and the British Prince Andrew to his private jet. A few years ago, allegations were made against the latter of having made use of the love services of minors through Epstein. The allegations are rejected by both Andrew and Buckingham Palace to this day.

Today's American President Donald Trump once raved about Epstein. Trump told New York magazine in 2002 that he had known Epstein for many years and that it was very funny in his presence. Epstein is a great guy. “They say that he loves beautiful women like me and that they are more on the younger side,” Trump said at the time.

It is primarily these relationships with the rich and powerful that are now drawing this attention to the case. Because the allegations against Epstein are not new. Back in 2008, he was charged on almost identical charges after several girls filed a lawsuit against him. At the time, however, Epstein apparently helped Epstein avoid a long prison sentence.

Trump's labor minister is under pressure

In this regard, the role of Alexander Acosta has become the focus of public attention. The 50-year-old is now Labor Minister in Trump's cabinet. As a District attorney for the District of Florida, Acosta led the lawsuit against Epstein in 2008 and fought for a controversial deal. Acosta dropped the grave federal charges. In return, Epstein pleaded guilty to the less serious charges under state law. Instead of a life sentence, Epstein only had to serve thirteen months thanks to the deal. In the meantime he got amazing privileges. He was allowed to leave the detention center six days out of seven to do his job in the office.

Research by the "Miami Herald" has brought the case to light again and thus the White House in an uncomfortable situation. Acosta's role in the deal is now being investigated by the Justice Department. There are already initial calls for resignation. Epstein could have been in jail years ago if Acosta, the then Florida prosecutor, hadn't made a deal with him, said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday. Previously, the chairman of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, called for Acosta's resignation.

The current labor minister wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that the crimes Epstein committed were "terrible". He is glad that the investigators in New York are pushing a case against the entrepreneur that is based on new findings. With the evidence available more than a decade ago, prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail and register as a sex offender, Acosta defended himself.

Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.

- Secretary Acosta (@SecretaryAcosta) July 9, 2019

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday during his reception for the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Washington, Acosta was an "excellent" minister who had done a "fantastic" job over the past two and a half years. He also heard that not only Acosta was involved in the decision at the time, but many people.

Former friends distance themselves

Many of his once influential friends have since distanced themselves from Epstein. On Monday, ex-President Bill Clinton announced that he had used Epstein's private jet for four work-related trips in 2002 and 2003 for his foundation. He only visited the villa in New York once with an employee and a bodyguard. It's not the first time that Clinton has had to explain his previous relationship with Epstein. In 2015 it became known that the former president appeared in Epstein's digital address directory with 21 phone numbers. President Trump replied to a question from a journalist about the current case that he knew "nothing at all" about it. Both Trump and Clinton are said to have not had any contact with Epstein since Epstein's first conviction.

For Epstein himself, meanwhile, the prospects are bleak. The New York District Attorney's Office has received new testimony from alleged victims. As a result, Epstein was arrested over the weekend and his villa was searched, and child pornography was also seized. Also involved in the case is Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of former British media tycoon Robert Maxwell, who mysteriously died. She is a former lover of Epstein and is said to have organized the sex slave ring. Criminal proceedings should therefore also run against Maxwell. But she denies all allegations.

Epstein pleaded not guilty at a court hearing on Monday. He is due to appear in court again on Thursday. If the case is reopened and Epstein is found guilty, he faces a prison sentence of up to 45 years.