Flight data places Jeffrey Epstein’s private jet on Arabian Peninsula on the eve of the 2016 election

J.K. Trotter
epstein flight documents 2x1 lead copy
  • Flight data recently obtained by INSIDER shows that one of Jeffrey Epstein's private jets traveled to and from the Middle East in November 2016.
  • It's unclear where exactly the Gulfstream GV-SP landed, but an aviation expert said it may have been destined for airports in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, or Oman.
  • Journalists, prosecutors, and accusers have repeatedly drawn attention to Epstein's private jets.
  • The path of the November 2016 flight could also revive questions about Epstein's rumored ties to foreign intelligence agencies.
  • Visit INSIDER's homepage for more stories.

Last month, INSIDER traced the movements of Jeffrey Epstein's private jets since early 2018, revealing a packed schedule between the registered sex offender's four homes and occasional jaunts to Mexico, Morocco, and Slovakia. Newly released flight data, from 2016 and 2017, published here for the first time, further illuminate Epstein's extensive travels — including a mysterious trip to the Middle East on the eve of 2016 election.

epsteins jet november 8 2016 flight

ADSBExchange.com; Shayanne Gal/INSIDER

Journalists have long scrutinized Epstein's migration patterns for evidence of his alleged misdeeds and his social proximity to politicians and celebrities. At least one accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has claimed Epstein abused her aboard his private jets, and used free trips to entice and transport his victims around the world. Prosecutors recently subpoenaed Epstein's personal pilots, after arguing that his appetite for international travel, among other things, rendered him an "extraordinary risk of flight." 

Epstein's alleged death by suicide on August 10, in a New York City prison cell, places an even greater burden on the evidence he left behind. And few records have illuminated more of his activities and connections than those of his private jets.

The election-eve flight to the Arabian Peninsula was in a dataset of aviation signals provided to INSIDER by ADS-B Exchange. The website is one of the few available sources for tracking the movements of aircraft whose owners, including Epstein himself, have taken advantage of a Federal Aviation Authority rule that allows them to block their tail numbers from tracking sites like FlightAware and FlightRadar24.

ADS-B Exchange's dataset covers the 18 months between June 2016, when the site was founded, and December 2017. The site's public archives, however, only go back to January 2018. In lieu of payment, INSIDER agreed to set up an ADS-B receiver in our New York City office and encourage other journalists to do the same.

The November 7, 2016 flight near the Arabian Peninsula

Much like data from 2018-2019, the data from 2016-2017 show Epstein's jets bouncing between New York City, the US Virgin Islands, New Mexico, and Paris. They also show short excursions across continental Europe, to places like Lake Geneva, Zurich, and Strasbourg; and a number of day trips between New York and Boston.

But on November 7, 2016, one of Epstein's jets took a route that it would never take again. Sometime around noon, Epstein's Gulfstream GV-SP lifted off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and flew southeastward, over the Mediterranean Sea, until it reached the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. Fifteen minutes later, around 4pm Paris time, the jet turned north into southern Jordan. The last signal captured by an ADS-B receiver, at 4:06 pm, placed the aircraft slightly north of Jordan's border with Saudi Arabia, flying at an altitude of 41,000 feet.

Almost exactly two days later, the same aircraft reappeared over the southern half of the Sinai, heading in the opposite direction. ADS-B signals indicate it flew back to Paris, landing there sometime after 8:30 pm. Two days later, it flew to New York, where it resumed its pattern of flying up and down the Eastern Seaboard, between New York, Palm Beach, and St. Thomas.

There is no indication that any of Epstein's jets flew near Egypt, Jordan, Israel, or Saudi Arabia after November 9, 2016. There is some evidence, however, that Epstein traveled in the region in past decades. According to flight logs published by Gawker in 2015, the financier and his entourage briefly stopped in Dubai on May 29, 2002, after hosting President Bill Clinton on a multi-country tour of Southeast Asia.

The flight data doesn't tell the whole story of Epstein's travel schedule

The ADS-B Exchange dataset is incomplete in three different ways:

  • We don't know the precise path and altitude of Epstein's jet as it flew over a portion of the Mediterranean Sea. This is mainly because ADS-B Exchange was only a few months old and gathering signals from a much smaller number of receivers. We've illustrated the gap in the map above with dotted lines. 
  • We don't know where the jet went between 4:06pm on November 7 and 3:47 pm on November 9. Its precise whereabouts during those 48 hours remain unknown. 
  • We don't know who was aboard the jet, since ADS-B signals do not contain the names of passengers. That means we can't say for sure that Jeffrey Epstein himself was on either leg of the jet's journey. We can be reasonably confident, however, that a pilot in his employ was controlling the aircraft. 

The same data offers hints about the jet's final destination

The route of the flight is slightly unusual for a private jet navigating the region. The path over the Sinai, with a hard left into Jordan, is a consequence of Israel's uniquely strict airspace regulations. "Israel doesn't issue any overflight permits," said Suran Wijayawardana, the chief operating officer of Alerion Aviation. "Most aircraft would more than likely prefer to fly south of Israel, providing they can maintain an altitude over 31,000 feet over the Sinai Peninsula."

Noting the Gulfstream's flying altitude of 41,000 feet, as captured by the last signal on November 7, Wijayawardana offered an educated guess about its destination: "If the aircraft were heading to Amman," the capital of Jordan, "I would expect it to be lower and well into the descent for the approach.")

"My guess would be any destination from Qatar to Muscat, as it would have started descended to lower altitudes anywhere else," Wijayawardana told INSIDER. Other potential destinations, he added, were Bahrain, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Baghdad.

Epstein was close to Middle Eastern leaders and was rumored to have ties to intelligence agencies

It's by no means unusual for multi-millionaire financiers to travel to the Middle East — Epstein had long-standing ties to Israel, including a business partnership with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and told a New York Times reporter that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "had visited him many times."

But the Middle East excursion was a rare one for Epstein, according to flight data reviewed by INSIDER. And given the fact that a mysterious false passport found in his home listed a Saudi address and showed travel to Saudi Arabia, the presence of Epstein's jet over the Arabian Peninsula on November 8, 2016—and the unanswered matter of where it landed, and for what reason— adds another entry to a long list of simmering questions about the multi-millionaire's ties to other countries.

Theories regarding Epstein and foreign intelligence agencies have circulated since he publicly befriended Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite and daughter of press baron Robert Maxwell. In 2003, the British Foreign Office released archival records that described Maxwell's relationships with the intelligence agencies of the UK, Israel, and Russia.

More recently, on July 7, the journalist Vicky Ward reported on conversations between Alexander Acosta, the former US Attorney in Miami who stepped down as Secretary of Labor after defending a 2007 plea deal that allowed Epstein to avoid federal prosecution, and members of the Trump administration's transition staff:

Acosta had explained ... [that] he'd cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein's attorneys because he had "been told" to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. "I was told Epstein 'belonged to intelligence' and to leave it alone," he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta. (The Labor Department had no comment when asked about this.)

Ward relied on a single a source, presumably a former member of the Trump transition team, relaying something Acosta purportedly said more than two years ago, about a negotiation that had happened more than a decade prior. Still, when confronted with Ward's reporting, Acosta gave a wordy response — "I can't address it directly because of our guidelines, but I can tell you that a lot of reporting is going down rabbit holes" — that didn't answer the question. 

Other details unearthed by prosecutors seem like background from a spy novel: A locked safe in Epstein's Manhattan mansion contained $70,000 in cash, 48 loose diamonds, and a counterfeit Austrian passport listing a Saudi Arabian residence under a false name with "stamps that reflect use of the passport to enter France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia." In a filing, prosecutors noted that "The Government has asked defense counsel to advise whether the defendant is currently, or has been in the past, a citizen or legal permanent resident of a country other than the United States. To date, defense counsel has declined to respond."

Epstein's lawyers claimed that he carried the passport in order to avoid detection as an "an affluent member of the Jewish faith" during his Middle East travels.

Lawyers who represented Epstein before his death did not respond to requests for comment. Acosta didn't respond to requests for comment, either. A spokesperson for the Southern District of New York declined to comment. 

The rest of the flight data from 2016-2017

Epstein's Gulfstream GV-SP returned to the US from Paris on November 11, 2016, and quickly resumed its usual schedule of shuttling between Epstein's homes in New York City, the US Virgin Islands, and Palm Beach. Before spending the holidays in the latter two destinations, the jet flew twice from New York to Boston, returning the same night on both trips.

Between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017, Epstein's jets flew 74 times, approximately half of which were flights between New York, Palm Beach, and the Virgin Islands. The remainder of the flights stayed within the jets' usual orbit in the US and western Europe — but the ADS-B Exchange flight data suggest several unique paths:

  • On January 29, 2017, the Gulfstream GV-SP flew from New York to a destination in western Massachusetts, and returned 4 days later.
  • On February 23, 2017, the Gulfstream GV-SP flew from Paris to Zurich, stopped for 4 hours, flew to Strasbourg, and returned to Paris 3 hours later.
  • On February 26, 2017, the Gulfstream GV-SP flew from New York to Santa Fe, stopping in Phoenix for 4 hours and Tucson for 4 hours. The next day, it flew from Santa Fe to Palm Beach.
  • On April 6, 2017, the Gulfstream GV-SP flew from Paris to New York, stopping in Rabat, Morocco for 5 hours.
  • On June 7, 2017, the Gulfstream GV-SP flew from Palm Beach to San Diego, and flew to Santa Fe two days later.
  • On July 7, 2017, the Gulfstream GV-SP flew from Paris to a destination near Lake Geneva, and returned 6 hours later.

If you have any tips or theories about why Epstein's jet was spotted over the Arabian Peninsula in November 2016, please get in touch.

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