Jeffrey Epstein’s death won’t stop the truth from coming out – his accusers deserve to be heard

The billionaire will not be around to face the revelations of what happened to the victims, but plenty of others – presidents, princes, professors – will be

Sean O'Grady
Sunday 11 August 2019 17:32
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Jeffrey Epstein found dead in prison ahead of sex trafficking trial

How did the billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein get away with it?

The clue is in the question of course. He was operating in plain sight, in fact. If the allegations are correct, he was not hanging around school gates in a van waiting for his prey. No, he employed and presumably paid people to do it – every one of them witnesses if not accomplices in his activities. He had staff, assistants, associates who would travel the globe looking for young girls – procuring them, as the chilling phrase goes. This was done on an industrial scale – hundreds of them it is alleged, aged about 14 to 17 or so. It was hardly a secret to them. A few have come forward including one, Jennifer Araoz who says Epstein raped her when she was 15 years old, a horrific accusation. She says she was groomed by an adult female who approached her outside her New York high school.

Among those caught up in the allegations about aiding and abetting Epstein’s sexual exploration of underage girls is Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of the late and in turn disgraced media tycoon Robert Maxwell. Ghislaine is accused of helping Epstein and other figures access young women for sex. This is where Prince Andrew’s name comes in. The Queen’s second son denies categorically any impropriety with minors and, in fairness, all the allegations levelled against him were struck out by the court in 2015.

Now that Epstein is dead it may be that non-disclosure agreements and other legal or other bonds of trust with him will rapidly dissolve. Although he himself has evaded justice, conveniently for some, the courts may release more details and the NDAs will no longer have any force. The tawdry, depressing depraved truth will soon be uncovered in a huge volume of revelations. Hundreds of women imply thousands of offences and scores of high-profile names.

So Epstein was operating in plain sight in the sense that he deployed substantial protections to facilitate his fairly blatant activities – and there are plenty of lawyers and others around him who helped him further victims and witnesses into silence.

Like Michael Jackson, Epstein could buy the best legal advice, and that matters. Money is powerful in that way, and there’s no use denying it. Only with a brilliant legal team could he have avoided a long if not life sentence for sex offences back in 2008. There doesn’t need to be anything corrupt about this to make it shameful – the authorities just didn’t want to fight such a powerful legal team as Epstein’s, and they knew he had powerful friends. Alexander Acosta, then US attorney in Florida, was one of those who approved the plea deal with Epstein. Acosta has now had to resign as Donald Trump’s labour secretary following criticism of his role in the earlier Epstein prosecution.

So much was Epstein operating in the open that he was often photographed with his influential friends and these remarkably young female companions, or otherwise, at parties and the like. Witness the endlessly replayed footage of Epstein with a much younger Trump, partying away. Take Trump's praise of Epstein in a New York magazine profile back in 2002: “I’ve known Jeffrey for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

Maybe like Trump, Epstein was just able to “grab em”, down at the Trump Mar-a-Lago resort. You surely recall what Trump said on the famous leaked recording? “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

You might, though, have forgotten what Trump added in 2016 when it all came out about another guy in their circle, with a certain reputation, Bill Clinton, who “has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close”.

Much more will come out in the next few days about these ageing playboys, frolicking in New York, Thailand and St Tropez. I, for one, would like to know much more about Prince Andrew and the alleged incident involving his latex Spitting Image puppet, which as I recall featured a long string of pork sausages. I’d like to know more about Trump and the kind of fun they had. Also Clinton’s grips on Epstein’s plane, apparently known as the Lolita Express. And Professor Alan Dershowitz, a celebrity lawyer, faced with allegations he dismissed as “unequivocally and completely false”. And, most curious because of her own back story and her gender, Maxwell, the woman usually said to be a “socialite”, which is a funny sort of life.

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It was she who allegedly called one of the accusers, Virginia Giuffre, formerly Roberts, a liar and was sued for defamation by Giuffre. It is in those defamation papers that some of the Prince Andrew stuff lurks, including the 2015 claim that HRH slept with Giuffre three times and had an encounter with the Duke of York in a bath tub – apparently untrue because the tub was “too small for a man of Prince Andrew’s size to enjoy a bath in, let alone sex”. For her part, Maxwell’s spokesperson says “the allegations made against Ghislaine Maxwell are untrue” and “she strongly denies allegations of an unsavoury nature, which have appeared in the British press and elsewhere, and reserves her right to seek redress at the repetition of such old defamatory claims”.

Well, more broadly, we will see some of the truth about all this in the weeks ahead. Unlike the recent Carl Beech fantasies in the UK about a VIP sex ring, the Epstein affair has multiple claims, eye witnesses and corroborated material around it – a huge volume of documentation. This time, the victims will be heard and they deserve to be as they describe what they claim happened to them. Epstein won’t be around to hear them say it, but plenty of others – presidents, princes, professors – will be.

Even if none of them did anything remotely wrong, let alone illegal – and there is no reason to assume that they did – they might wonder what sort of a man Epstein really was, and how foolish they were to allow themselves to be associated with him.

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