Friday at the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell saw two momentous events.
The first was the testimony of Accuser Number Four, Annie Farmer, to whom I first spoke about Epstein in 2002 and whose allegations about Epstein I only managed to get into print at a different publication in 2015. As I wrote last week, I expected Annie to be cool under pressure, not least because her story about what happened to her one weekend on Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico has never changed even in one detail from the story she told me almost twenty years ago.
Farmer’s value to the prosecution is not so much her story (the judge told the jury in advance of her testimony that nothing they would hear about Maxwell from Farmer was illegal) but her character. When asked by AUSA Lara Pomerantz about the money she had received from the Epstein’s compensation fund ($1.5 million), Farmer didn’t pretend that it was meaningless. She said, “It’s a very significant chunk of money. It’s a security for myself and my family, and it’s already been helpful in providing that.”
Further, when asked about the topless massage she says Maxwell gave her in 1996 when Annie was 16, Farmer was clear even when pressed by defense attorney Laura Menninger: no, the massage had not involved her nipples. And no, Farmer testified, Epstein had not pressed an erect penis into her. Farmer was clear that she felt “abused” but that she was not going to exaggerate or embellish the alleged acts to try and win the jury’s sympathy. The battle between Menninger and Farmer became about what, actually, could be defined as sexual abuse. Jurors swung their heads between the two women as if watching a tennis match. At one point, Farmer’s lawyer Sigrid McCawley had her hand at the base of the throat, clearly concerned her client might break down. Instead, Farmer did something extraordinary: After a sidebar, she actually smiled at Meninnger. Jurors were transfixed.
The second momentous event was that the prosecution rested, about a week ahead of schedule. This means the defense will open its case next Thursday (Judge Nathan has a conflict Monday through Wednesday), and it will last two to three days.
The defense team wants to call witnesses who, according to attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca, have been phoning and asking to testify under a pseudonym. Nathan will only rule on this by Wednesday night, so Thursday is likely to be a nail-biter. Complicating matters is the timetable surrounding the holidays. Nathan has instructed both sides to be ready with closing arguments as soon as the defense rests. This means that it is possible jurors will be asked to start assembling with just four hours to go before the break for Christmas begins. The defense has objected to this.
I’ve been asked in various TV and podcast interviews for my take on where we are in the trial at this point. Because I know so much about Epstein and Maxwell, I have questions that the jurors, who have been presented with a very narrow—I would say disturbingly narrow—picture of Epstein’s world, may not have.
To me, there are three major questions that this trial has made even more complicated. One is about Epstein’s money, the second is about the role of men in Epstein’s life, and the third is the role of the absent women in the trial: namely, Virginia Roberts and Sarah Kellen. (Neither Roberts nor Kellen has been charged with wrong-doing.)
I will address each matter over the next few days as court is adjourned, and I will start here with the money.
I still want to understand Epstein’s money—especially where it came from.
There may be a clue in the fact that Maxwell’s $30 million was wired to her, in installments, apparently from Epstein’s accounts. These wires would have incurred taxes of around 40 per cent; those taxes would have been payable by Maxwell, but it would have been Epstein’s role to alert the IRS.
Someone with knowledge told me, “If he wired her the money, he was quite deliberately making a record.”
To me, that raises a red flag. We know that Epstein was supposed to be an expert in paying minimal taxes. The billionaire Leon Black has said he paid Jeffrey Epstein $158 million in fees for his tax advice, presumably because it was so valuable. I know from my reporting that Epstein typically wanted to be paid in assets such as houses or planes or offshore trusts in the U.S. Virgin Islands to minimize his taxes, according to sources. I also know from my reporting that Epstein told his former colleague Steve Hoffenberg that he would take his clients’ money and hide half of their returns from them and keep the rest offshore.
Obviously, I can’t ask Epstein about this now, so I asked two financial experts who knew Epstein well until the mid 1990s what they made of the fact that Epstein had blatantly wired Maxwell a vast amount of money rather than giving her jewelry or art that she could have sold and that would not have been taxable.
The experts suggested that, after a brush with the IRS, Epstein deliberately began to pay just enough taxes and do enough legal on-shore transactions to detract from the rest disappearing offshore. One source points to the fact that, according to the verified inventory of Epstein’s estate filed on February 28, 2020 in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands, all his money appeared to be visible and in legitimate accounts. There was no offshore account. Now this does not square with what Hoffenberg told me or the fact that I’ve reported Epstein put $30 million into two Swiss bank accounts in the 1980s—which was before he got really rich.
The verified inventory of Jeffrey Epstein’s estate, filed in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands on February 28, 2020.
But very few of the people I’ve spoken to who know Epstein well believe that his assets were confined to only the $636 million that officially comprises his estate, according to the verified inventory.
In 2002, I asked Epstein if he had supported Maxwell financially after her father died and her inheritance vanished.
Here’s the transcript of our conversation:
VW: People said suddenly that he was—she was on her own and the rest of her family was spread out. Her income had been stripped to much less than what it had been. You gave her a job. You were a friend and everything.
JE: The key word for me is friend. I view that in extremely high regard. So I think friends do things for one another and that’s why I started the earlier thing. I can’t limit it to certain things. I take a very broad view of what a friend is and I think friends have responsibilities.
VW: Right, and then people say right now that you bought her house.
JE: No, I did not.
VW: You did not buy her house?
JE: No. She is very clever.
One of the theories about Epstein’s wealth that was voiced on my docuseries by the veteran journalist Ed Epstein, who knew both Jeffrey and Ghislaine, is that some of it came from Robert Maxwell, Ghislaine’s father who died in mysterious circumstances in 1991—the same year that people first recall meeting Ghislaine with Epstein. According to Epstein’s former business colleague Steven Hoffenberg, Epstein said he was helping Robert Maxwell “restructure his debt” at the end of his life. (A week after Maxwell died, it was discovered that he had stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from the pension funds of his employees.) The theory goes that Epstein, who was adept at hiding money, hid money for Maxwell’s children who needed to appear to be penniless, given their father’s crimes.
Now there is zero proof of this, and sources close to the family have told me it’s flat out false. And, in 2002 Epstein told me he never met Robert Maxwell, saying, “I knew nothing about—I never met the father. I stayed totally away from anything to do with...my view is to have respect for my friends and their problems. I simply provided sort of a welcome port for comfort. I think enough people were talking to her about her father.”
But at this point it’s so obvious that Epstein told me so many lies in 2002 that his words are worthless except what they tell us about his extraordinary ability to lie.
In my last newsletter, I described a conversation I had with Epstein in October 2002 during which he told me was in Tokyo. I subsequently received a phone call from a person with knowledge of Epstein’s travel in the fall of 2002.
Epstein had not gone to Tokyo.
So the never-ending question of Epstein’s money continues. This trial is not going to give us any answers. But, possibly, there will be breadcrumbs.