Mystery surrounds the death of the prominent New York financier (Image Source: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, via Reuters)
By Josh Brine | @Josh_Brine
Since his arrest in early July, the world has been fascinated by the case of millionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, who faced charges related to federal sex trafficking.
Even Mr Epstein’s death in custody on August 10 did nothing to stop the media frenzy, with coverage focusing on failures in the facility he was being held in and the proliferation of conspiracy theories surrounding his passing.
Despite having spent a remarkable amount of time in the spotlight, for someone who made a living working the stock markets, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding both his professional and personal life.
According to an article by Matt Stieb in New York magazine, Mr Epstein started his company J. Epstein & Co.—a money-management business for the mega-rich with a strict $1 billion entry fee for clients—in 1981.
But, as Mr Stieb wrote, very little is known about who Mr Epstein’s clients were and how much money he was worth.
Regardless, Mr Epstein seemingly lived a life of luxury and excess.
In a 2003 profile for Vanity Fair, Vicky Ward said Mr Epstein had homes in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, New Mexico and Florida, as well as a private island in the Caribbean known as Little Saint James.
“His advantage is that no-one really seems to know him or his history completely, or what his arsenal actually consists of,” she wrote.
“He has carefully engineered it so that he remains one of the few truly baffling mysteries among New York’s moneyed world.”
However, Mr Epstein’s mysterious persona hid his horrific personal life.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Florida police began investigating Mr Epstein in 2005 following claims he paid underage girls for sex.
This eventually led to Mr Epstein pleading guilty to a single count of soliciting prostitution, for which he was sentenced to 18 months in prison (though he would only serve 13).
Mr Epstein faced a series of civil suits in 2008 as well, alleging he had trafficked and had sex with minors – these cases were settled out of court.
In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2015, a woman named Virginia Roberts (now Giuffre) said she spent three years as an “under-age ‘sex slave’” for Mr Epstein and his friends, including Prince Andrew, Duke of York; a claim that has been emphatically denied by the Palace.
Prince Andrew is not the only high-profile name to be linked to Jeffrey Epstein.
Both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump—the 42nd and 45th Presidents of the United States respectively—have both been associated with the financier in the past.
A Vox article by Andrew Prokop said President Clinton flew several times on Mr Epstein’s planes after his presidency, including a trip to Africa to tour HIV/AIDS project sites alongside actor Kevin Spacey and comedian Chris Tucker.
Ms Giuffre also said she had seen President Clinton on the Little Saint James Island, though this has not been confirmed.
Regarding Mr Epstein’s relationship with President Trump, Mr Prokop said the two frequently attended each other’s social events during the 1990s and 2000s, although their friendship apparently ended before Mr Epstein’s legal troubles.
In a 2002 profile of Jeffrey Epstein in New York magazine, President Trump spoke glowingly of the financier, calling him a “terrific guy”.
“He’s a lot of fun to be with,” President Trump said.
“It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
Mr Epstein re-entered the media spotlight when he was arrested again on July 7 in relation to incidents spanning from 2002 to 2005.
He was expected to face two federal charges, with a law enforcement official saying some of his victims were as young as 14.
But before the case reached court, Mr Epstein died by an apparent suicide while in custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, although some have questioned whether his death was really by his own hand and conspiracy theories abound.
His death followed a suicide attempt on July 23, which led to Mr Epstein being placed on a watch list, though he was removed from this less than a week later.
In the time since Mr Epstein’s death, details of problems at the facility he was being held at have trickled out.
Two guards at the facility have been suspended and the warden reassigned after the FBI opened an investigation into the incident.
The New York Times reported that prison officials had said the suspended guards fell asleep, failed to check on Mr Epstein for three hours, and then falsified records to hide their mistakes.
While Mr Epstein’s case never made it to trial, the investigation into his abuse continues.
US Attorney General William Barr said “co-conspirators should not rest easy”, while Nick Akerman, a former federal prosecutor in the US, told TIME prosecutors will be “more compelled than ever” to find other people involved.
But Mr Epstein’s victims will never be able see their abuser face justice.
Jennifer Araoz, who alleges Mr Epstein raped her in his New York mansion when she was 15, told the ABC she was angered by his death.
“We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives, while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed, the pain and trauma he caused so many people,” Ms Araoz said.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.