Jeffrey Epstein, billionaire and former friend of Duke of York, 'charged with sex trafficking'

David Millward
Epstein served 13 months in jail after he was accused of sexually abusing dozens of teenage girls - Palm Beach Post

Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire financier and former friend of the Duke of York, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, has been charged with sex trafficking, according to reports in the US.

Epstein, 66, was arrested by FBI officers on Saturday, the New York Police Department confirmed. He was apprehended when his private jet landed at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey following a trip to Paris.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, Epstein is currently being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan.

He is due to appear before a federal magistrate on Monday to face charges dating back to the 2000s.

The latest allegations come more than a decade after Epstein avoided federal criminal charges under a plea deal which faced considerable criticism.

Under the 2007 plea agreement, Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to lesser state charges of soliciting and procuring a person under 18 for prostitution.

Epstein, who potentially faced a life sentence, was jailed for 13 months and registered as a sex offender. He was also required to compensate his victims.

It is unclear whether the latest allegations involve the same victims cited in the original prosecution.

While imprisoned at the Palm Beach County Stockade, Epstein was allowed to work six days a week at his office, the New York Times reported.

The deal was challenged in the courts by Epstein's victims, one of whom, Virginia Roberts, claimed that she was forced to have sex with the Duke of York on three separate occasions.

She also alleged that she was as paid £10,000 by Epstein, a convicted sex offender, as a "reward" for sleeping with the Duke in 2001.

The allegations, made in documents filed in a Florida court, were denied by the Duke, who said they were untrue and defamatory.

In all the Duke issued three separate denials of sexual impropriety when the allegations surfaced in January 2015.

Buckingham Palace also issued a strongly-worded statement.  "It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation."

Whether fresh allegations will arise from the latest charges remains unclear.

Earlier this year the Department of Justice announced it had embarked on an investigation of the original plea deal negotiated by prosecutor Alexander Acosta, who is now Labour Secretary in Donald Trump's cabinet.

Kenneth Marra, the judge, who is considering whether to invalidate the agreement, said the victims should have been consulted.

Federal prosecutors are resisting moves to overturn the original agreement, insisting it must stand.

"The past cannot be undone; the government committed itself to the NPA (Non Prosecution Agreement) and the parties have not disputed that Epstein complied with its provisions," they wrote in a submission to the court.

In pressing fresh charges, the authorities have re-ignited the controversy over the original agreement to pursue more serious federal charges.

According to the original Florida investigation, Epstein paid cash to dozens of teenage girls – in some cases as young as 14or 15 – for nude massages, masturbation, oral sex and, in one alleged case, rape.

The number of victims is unclear, with the New York Times reporting that investigators had identified at least 30. The Miami Herald believes the total was around 60.

Some of the victims were local, others who were allegedly brought to Epstein's Palm Beach mansion came from as far afield as Eastern Europe and other parts of the world.

Jack Scarola, a lawyer representing two of the women, told the New York Times: "Given his extensive pattern of past criminal conduct and the apparent addictive nature of his aberrant behaviour, an arrest comes as no surprise."

Shortly after details of Epstein's arrest emerged, Ben Sasse, a Republican Senator from Nebraska, called for the hedge-fund financier to kept in custody pending the trial.

"This monster received a pathetically soft sentence last time and his victims deserve nothing less than justice," he said.

"Justice doesn't depend on the size of your bank account."