Former prime minister Ehud Barak said he visited disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein’s mansions and private Caribbean island, in an interview published Monday, but insisted he never attended parties of a sexual nature there.
Barak, who re-entered politics this month by forming the Israeli Democratic Party to run in upcoming elections, has come under scrutiny after his continuing business and personal ties with Epstein emerged last week.
Epstein was arrested this month and accused paying girls hundreds of dollars in cash for massages and then molesting them at his homes in Palm Beach, Florida, and New York from 2002 through 2005. The charges, filed in New York, carry the potential for up to 45 years in prison.
Barak told The Daily Beast that he met with Epstein dozens of times, including after reports emerged of sex parties and orgies at his homes, including some involving minor girls.
” I can’t tell you exactly how many. I don’t keep count. Over the years, I’ve seen him on occasion,” he said.
But the former premier, 77, said he had nothing to do with any of those parties or any girls or women.
“I never attended a party with him,” Barak said. “I never met Epstein in the company of women or young girls.”
He confirmed that he had met Epstein at two of his Manhattan homes and on a small island owned by Epstein near the US Virgin Islands.
Epstein has been accused of raping or sexually abusing women and underage girls in New York and on the island. In 2016, Barak was photographed by the Daily Mail entering Epstein’s New York mansion with a security detail and wearing a large fur hat.
“It is me in the picture,” he told The Daily Beast. “It was so cold the Middle Easterner had to put on a hat. I was there, for lunch or chat, nothing else. So what?”
He told news outlet he visited the island “once, for several hours—and years after the publications about sex parties or orgies there.”
Federal authorities consider the island to be Epstein’s primary residence in the United States, a place where at least one alleged victim said in a court affidavit that she participated in an orgy, as well as had sex with Epstein and other people. She said she saw former US President Bill Clinton on the island, but that she never saw him having sex with anyone. A Clinton spokesman issued a statement saying he never visited there.
“Everybody called it ‘Pedophile Island,’” Kevin Goodrich, who is from St. Thomas and operates boat charters, told the Associated Press last week. “It’s our dark corner.”
On Saturday, Barak said that he was looking into dissolving his limited partnership with Epstein after it emerged that the US financier was a major investor in the Reporty startup headed by Barak in 2015, seven years after Epstein served time for solicitation.
Reporty, now called Carbyne, develops video streaming and geolocation software for emergency services. Barak invested $1.5 million in a 2015 seed round, with much of the money coming from Epstein. Aside from Barak, the only other investor in the initial funding round was Israel’s Economy Ministry, which pumped in $300,000, according to reports.
Barak also received about $2.3 million from the US-based Wexner Foundation for research from 2004 to 2006, according to reports, when Epstein served on the board.
Barak told The Daily Beast that he first met Epstein about 17 years ago, when he was introduced by former president Shimon Peres. He said both Bill and Hillary Clinton were at the party as well as “many famous and important people.”
In 2008, Epstein signed a non-prosecution deal that required him to admit to a single state charge of soliciting prostitution from a minor and register as a sex offender.
The deal, which came to light last year, has come under fire for seemingly burying dozens of other accusations against the financier. Epstein served 13 months in a county facility in Florida as part of the deal.
Speaking to Channel 12’s “Meet the Press” Saturday, Barak defended his decision to enter a business relationship with Epstein years after he went to jail, even after many of the financier’s other powerful friends and backers had severed ties.
“He’d served his sentence for soliciting prostitution — the indictment didn’t say she was a minor,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has seized on the reports of Barak’s connection to Epstein, taking to social media Thursday with the demand: “Investigate Ehud Barak immediately.”