Wealth

Senate panel probes billionaire Leon Black’s $158 million in payments to Jeffrey Epstein

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Leon Black, chairman and chief executive officer of Apollo Global Management LLC, at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Monday, April 27, 2015.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A Senate panel on Tuesday revealed a yearlong investigation into Apollo Global Management co-founder Leon Black‘s ties to the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, with a focus on $158 million Black allegedly paid Epstein for tax and estate planning services.

Black has so far provided “inadequate responses” to the committee and refused to detail his payments to Epstein, raising concerns about whether those payments were “were properly characterized as income or gifts for tax purposes,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote in a letter dated Monday.

The probe into Black’s tax schemes is one of a series of investigations by the committee into how ultra-wealthy people skirt their tax bills, Wyden’s letter said.

Black, a billionaire, is declining to give the committee any more personal information.

A spokesperson for Black said in a statement that the private equity investor “has cooperated extensively with the Committee, providing detailed information about the matters under review.”

“The transactions referenced in the Committee’s letter were lawful in all respects, were conceived of, vetted and implemented by reputable law firms and tax and other advisors, and Mr. Black has fully paid all taxes owed to the government,” the spokesperson said.

A separate memo responding to Wyden notes that Black has already answered more than a dozen of the committee’s prior questions and produced more than 150 pages of his personal tax and estate documents. The committee’s latest round of questions are “inappropriately invasive” and potentially overstep the panel’s oversight role, Black’s memo contended.

The newly unveiled congressional scrutiny into Black’s relationship with Epstein marks just the latest example of the ongoing backlash faced by high-profile contacts of the money manager, who hanged himself in jail in 2019 while facing child sex trafficking charges.

Overnight, the U.S. Virgin Islands lobbed new accusations against JPMorgan Chase in a lawsuit accusing the bank of enabling Epstein’s criminal activity.

The territory in new court filings alleged that JPMorgan in 2004 had opened accounts and credit cards for two teenagers described as models and friends of Epstein.

A bank report for one of the girls, whose name is redacted, notes that she is a Slovakian citizen and that “Epstein has asked us the favor of opening a checking account for her and he will guarantee her credit card application,” according to the court filing.

The Virgin Islands’ filing also revealed that JPMorgan CFO of Asset and Wealth Management David Brigstocke compared a client’s house to Epstein’s by calling it “more tasteful, and fewer nymphettes.”

Both the Virgin Islands and JPMorgan filed motions overnight for partial summary judgment in the lawsuit.

The territory has accused the bank of facilitating and concealing Epstein’s human trafficking operation for more than a decade by ignoring ample evidence of his criminal activity. Top executives at JPMorgan “turned a blind eye” to Epstein’s misconduct, the Virgin Islands alleges, because of the money and high-profile clients that the well-connected financier brought to the bank.

U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein (C) appears in court where he pleaded guilty to two prostitution charges in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. July 30, 2008.
Uma Sanghvi | Palm Beach Post | Reuters

JPMorgan has denied wrongdoing and accused the USVI of helping Epstein, who owned a private island in the territory, carry out his crimes. In May, the bank alleged in a court filing that the former first lady of the Virgin Islands helped secure student visas for some of Epstein’s victims.

The USVI’s motion for summary judgment came less than two weeks after the government revealed that it sought at least $190 million from JPMorgan, in addition to a court order that would protect potential future trafficking victims.

The USVI’s case against the bank is currently scheduled to head to trial on Oct. 23.

Epstein at age 66 killed himself in a federal jail in Manhattan in August 2019, weeks after being arrested on federal child sex trafficking charges.

He had previously pleaded guilty in 2008 to a Florida state charge of procuring sex from an underage girl. He registered as a sex offender and served about 13 months in jail, though he was allowed out on work release for much of that sentence.

JPMorgan ended its banking relationship with Epstein in 2013.

Last month, JPMorgan agreed to pay about $290 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Epstein’s victims.

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