American financier Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender now embroiled in a sex-trafficking case involving minors, was an active business partner with former prime minister Ehud Barak as late as 2015.
Barak formed a limited partnership company in Israel in 2015, called Sum (E.B.) 2015, to invest in a high-tech startup then called Reporty, now named Carbyne, which developed video streaming and geolocation software for emergency services. A large part of the money used by Sum to buy Reporty stock was supplied by Epstein, Haaretz reported Thursday.
The report appears to raise new questions about the connection between Barak and the disgraced Epstein — a relationship that has become a favorite election talking point for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Barak reentered the political fray last month, announcing a new party formed for the purpose of unseating Netanyahu.
Responding to the report, Netanyahu took to social media with the demand: “Investigate Ehud Barak immediately.”
The prime minister did not say what behavior on Barak’s part could be the subject of a criminal probe, as no action described in the report appeared illegal.
Barak, too, responded to the report and Netanyahu’s post, confirming the 2015 partnership with Epstein, and comparing the convicted sex offender to Netanyahu.
“You don’t have to investigate — I confess,” he said in the statement. “I gave a second chance, both to Epstein and to Bibi [Netanyahu]. Both are now neck-deep in criminality. I expect both to recuse themselves until the truth is ascertained.”
He added: “For my part, all my activities were those of a private citizen, not a minister or prime minister. All were legal, reported to the authorities, and taxes were paid on them.”
Addressing Netanyahu, he added, “How about you?”
Thursday’s exchange of blows between the two former political allies came amid an ongoing spat over Barak’s past relationship with Epstein.
On Sunday, the prime minister tweeted a screenshot of a Hebrew-language report about Epstein’s most recent arrest and his ties to Barak some 15 years ago. The report said that Epstein had been a trustee of the Wexner Foundation when it gave Barak $1 million for unspecified consulting services in 2004.
Barak responded with a sarcastic tweet: “It pains me to hear that people I know get in trouble and face criminal charges. First Netanyahu, now Epstein. I wish both of them that the truth will come out.”
Epstein was arrested Saturday in connection with allegations that he was involved in sex trafficking dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. He was indicted Monday in federal court in Manhattan.
Netanyahu is at the center of three criminal investigations into alleged corruption.
Netanyahu doubled down on Tuesday, posting a video under the heading, “What else has sex offender Epstein given to Barak?”
The video charges that Barak received a payment of $2.3 million from the Wexner Foundation and has not disclosed what the payment was for beyond saying in an interview that he provides “consulting and research services.”
It claimed Barak never conducted the research.
Netanyahu’s Likud party also has alleged that Barak attended a party hosted by Epstein in 2016.
Barak struck back late Tuesday, noting Netanyahu’s close friendship with Arnaud Mimran, a Frenchman sentenced to eight years in prison for tax evasion that reached into the billions of euros.
Asked about the 2015 partnership, Barak initially declined to confirm the report to Haaretz, saying he would not disclose the identities of private investors who worked with him.
“I saw a business opportunity and registered a partnership under my control in Israel,” Barak told Haaretz. “A small number of people I know are invested in it, in a commercial deal that benefited everyone. Since these were private investments, it would be inappropriate and wrong for me to reveal the identities of the investing parties.”