Former prime minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday said he would sue the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper for defamation after it published pictures of him entering Jeffrey Epstein’s New York residence in January 2016, around the same time several young women tied to the financier also came by.
The Mail heavily insinuated that Barak’s visit to his business partner was not strictly business-related.
The photos published by the paper were not new, and were originally published in 2016 under the title: “The busy life of Jeffrey Epstein: Group of gorgeous Manhattan ‘it’ girls in and out of the billionaire sex offender’s mansion before Clinton pal flies off in private jet with comely brunette.”
Barak was included among the photos, but only as “an unidentified man” who entered the home accompanied by a bodyguard.
Barak’s face was partially covered by a neck warmer as he entered the house, and the Mail claimed Tuesday that he was attempting to hide his features. However, when he emerged the gaiter was on his head and his face was visible, putting those assertions in doubt.
On Wednesday, Barak posted a picture on Facebook with his face covered, noting that “When it’s cold, I tend to cover my face. Not only in New York… Until now, I didn’t think that was a news story…”
The British tabloid noted that the women photographed also entering Epstein’s home did it “on the same day” as Barak and “within hours.” However, the Mail did not provide a clear timeline of the photos, and it was not clear whether they were taken before Barak entered, during his time there, or after he left.
If he was in the house at the same time as the women, it could contradict his earlier assertions that he “never met Epstein in the company of women or young girls.”
Speaking to the Daily Beast, Barak confirmed it was him in the photos.
“It is me in the picture,” he said. “It was so cold the Middle Easterner had to put on a hat. I was there, for lunch or chat, nothing else. So what?”
Following the Mail article’s publication, Barak said he would sue the paper for defamation.
“Barak rejects with contempt the sordid insinuations in the story,” a statement from Barak’s Israel Democratic Party said.
“The reports and hints in the article are baseless… The Daily Mail has previously published several false articles such as this, about Barak and about others. Other journalists who looked into these matters found no evidence to support these lies.”
On Monday, Barak said he visited Epstein’s mansions and private Caribbean island, but insisted he never attended parties of a sexual nature there.
Barak, who reentered politics this month by forming the Israel Democratic Party to run in the upcoming September elections, has come under scrutiny after his continuing business and personal ties with Epstein emerged last week.
Epstein was arrested this month and accused of 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, could carry 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, 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.
“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.
He told The Daily Beast 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 the site.
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 with the demand: “Investigate Ehud Barak immediately.”