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Investigative Journalist Explains Why Jeffrey Epstein Might Have Needed a Fake Passport


Why did the wealthy and connected accused child sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein have a fake passport that listed his address as Saudi Arabia?

The detail came out on Monday in a federal courtroom, where federal prosecutors said they had been made aware that a safe in Epstein Upper East Side townhouse contained a passport; the passport had a photo that appeared to be of Epstein, but it had a different name. While it was not initially specified which country issued the passport (it’s since been identified as an Austrian passport), eyebrows were raised when Saudi Arabia was listed as Epstein’s home address. The passport was issued in the ’80s and is currently expired.

Vicky Ward is an investigative journalist who recently said that she was “silenced” back in 2002/2003, when attempting to expose Epstein as a sexual abuser of young girls in a Vanity Fair profile (“The Talented Mr. Epstein”). In a Twitter thread on Monday, Ward discussed what Epstein reportedly said he was up to in the ’80s, to explain how he might have come to possess a fake passport with a home address in Saudi Arabia.

“In the 1980s, Jeffrey Epstein used to tell people he was a kind of financial bounty hunter whose job it was to ‘find’ lost or stolen money for the government or for very rich people,” Ward said. “A former Epstein friend reported in @Salon last week that Epstein claimed ‘he worked for governments to recover money looted by African dictators. Other times those dictators hired him to help them hide their stolen money.'”

The Salon piece Ward was referring to, indeed, made such claims.

Jeffrey Epstein didn’t abuse underage girls in a vacuum. He had enablers. And friends. For a few years in the ‘80s, I was one of his friends — in the transactional, Manhattan meaning of that word — and I got a preview of his sickness.

When we met in 1986, Epstein’s double identity intrigued me — he said he didn’t just manage money for clients with mega-fortunes, he was also a high-level bounty hunter. Sometimes, he told me, he worked for governments to recover money looted by African dictators. Other times those dictators hired him to help them hide their stolen money.

The writer of the piece, Jesse Kornbluth, went on to describe how Epstein became “dead” to him:

My wife-to-be was then a military historian, with a book about to be published. Interview Magazine photographed her in a buttoned-up military shirt, with a taut khaki tie. A witty photo of an attractive woman. But not a sexy look. Jeffrey Epstein had chatted her up at a few parties. The military look fooled him not at all.

The night before our marriage, Epstein called. “It’s your last free night,” he told my wife-to-be. “Why don’t you come over and fuck me?”

That was how, in June of 1987, Jeffrey Epstein became dead to me.

Ward, citing her own source, said that “one of the rich people for whom Jeffrey Epstein chased down money was Adnan Khashoggi, a powerful Saudi businessman” — who also happened to be the uncle of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (the latter was shockingly murdered by agents of the Saudi Arabian government in Oct. 2018). Jamal’s uncle Adnan died in 2017.

“Khashoggi, now deceased, was very powerful in Saudi Arabia and may well have been in a position to have helped Epstein procure documentation in that country,” Ward continued. “There is more on that yet to come.”

Ward has said that her former editor at Vanity FairGraydon Carter, was not telling the truth when he said her story “simply didn’t have the goods.”

“In the end, we didn’t have confidence in Ward’s reporting,” Carter said of the story. “We were not in the habit of running away from a fight.”

“It’s just not true,” Ward responded. “The women were on the record, as was their mother, and they had character witnesses.”

Carter has disputed this as well.

“I respected the work Vicky Ward did at Vanity Fair but unfortunately her recounting of the facts around the Epstein article is inaccurate. There were not three sources on the record and therefore this aspect of the story did not meet our legal and editorial standards,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.

But Ward said there was an “inappropriate” meeting between Carter and Epstein the happened after the article was fact-checked and legally vetted.

“What’s important to remember here is that Graydon Carter cut the women from the story after Jeffrey Epstein met with him, which in itself is extraordinarily inappropriate,” she said. “When you’re the subject of a piece you don’t go and then negotiate with the editor of a magazine.”

“Jeffrey Epstein met with him in his office. And it was after that meeting — and long after the article had been fact-checked and gone through a legal vet — that the women were taken out of the story,” Ward continued. She said Carter got photos from Epstein that were then used to illustrate the article.

Ward recently described this in the Daily Beast, as well:

I spent many months on his trail in 2002 for Vanity Fair and discovered not only that he was not who he claimed to be professionally, but also that he had allegedly assaulted two young sisters, one of whom had been underage at the time. Very bravely, they were prepared to go on the record. They were afraid he’d use all his influence to discredit them—and their fear turned out to be legitimate.

As the article was being readied for publication, Epstein made a visit to the office of Vanity Fair’s then-editor, Graydon Carter, and suddenly the women and their allegations were removed from the article. “He’s sensitive about the young women,” Carter told me at the time. (Editor’s Note: Carter has previously denied this allegation.) He also mentioned he’d finagled a photograph of Epstein in a swimsuit out of the encounter. And there was also some feeble excuse about the article “being stronger as a business story.” (Epstein had also leaned heavily on my ex-husband’s uncle, Conrad Black, to try to exert his influence on me, which was particularly unwelcome, given that Black happened to be my ex-husband’s boss at the time.)

In the same piece, Ward claimed that soon-to-be-former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta–whose former U.S. Attorney’s office cut a sweetheart non-prosecution agreement with Epstein in 2007–said before confirmation hearings that he “was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone.” The claim has gained some traction among conservative radio hosts.

When Acosta gave a press conference last week, the one preceding his eventual resignation, he was asked about whether Epstein being an intelligence asset had something to do with the sweetheart deal. Acosta acknowledged the reporting on this, did not outright deny it as completely untrue, and said guidelines prohibited him from addressing it directly.

“So, there has been reporting to that effect. And let me say, there’s been report to a lot of effects in this case. Not just now but over the years. And again, I would, I would hesitate to take this reporting as fact,” he said. “This was a case that was brought by our office. This was a case that was brought based on the facts […] And I look at the reporting and others. I can’t address it directly because of our guidelines.”

[Image via New York Sex Offender Registry]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.