The convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein appeared to threaten Bill Gates and tried to blackmail the multi-billionaire over his extramarital affair with a Russian bridge player, according to a new report published by the Wall Street Journal.
Speaking to the Journal, sources familiar with the matter said that after Epstein found out about the Microsoft co-founder’s affair with Russian bridge player Mila Antonova, he threatened Gates into reimbursing him for tuition costs that Epstein had initially covered for Antonova to attend software coding school.
Epstein’s threat to Gates came in the form of an email he sent in 2017 after he failed to convince Gates to join a multibillion-dollar charity fund he attempted to set up, according to the sources.
Gates met Antonova in about 2010, when she was in her 20s, and went on to play bridge with her. In a 2010 YouTube video, Antonova recounted a tournament that she played with Gates, saying: “I didn’t beat him but I tried to kick him with my leg.”
According to documents reviewed by the Journal, Antonova wanted to establish an online bridge tutorial business and was attempting to secure funds. Through Boris Nikolic, a close Gates adviser, Antonova was introduced to Epstein to help her raise funds for her initiative, which sought to “promote bridge by creating quality tutorials for beginners and advanced players”, the Journal reported.
Antonova and Nikolic met Epstein at his townhouse in November 2013 in New York City, where she presented her fundraising proposals to him and sought half a million dollars, according to the Journal. Antonova told the outlet that Epstein ultimately did not invest in the initiative.
Nevertheless, Antonova went on to stay at an apartment in New York a year later that Epstein provided her. “I didn’t interact with him or with anyone else while there,” she said.
Epstein at one point paid for Antonova to attend software coding school, the Journal reported.
“Epstein agreed to pay, and he paid directly to the school,” she told the outlet. “Nothing was exchanged. I don’t know why he did that.
“When I asked, he said something like he was wealthy and wanted to help people when he could.”
During the time Antonova was looking to set up her initiative, Epstein was also trying to set up his own fund. According to documents reviewed by the Journal, Epstein was attempting to establish his charitable fund with JP Morgan, which would require ultra-wealthy individuals to make a minimum $100m contribution and pay him millions of dollars in fees.
The fund was supposed to be a way for Epstein to rebuild his reputation after he was forced to register as a sex offender and had pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, according to sources that spoke to the Journal.
Documents reviewed by the outlet showed that Epstein’s fund was contingent upon obtaining support from Gates.
In emails sent to JP Morgan executives, Epstein tried to come off as a close adviser to Gates, despite not including the Microsoft co-founder in the emails, which the Journal reviewed.
“In essence, this [fund] will allow Bill to have access to higher quality people, investment, allocation, governance without upsetting either his marriage or the sensitvities [sic] of the current foundation employees,” Epstein wrote in an email in August 2011.
He followed up the next day, writing: “Bill is terribly frustrated. He [would] like to boost some of the things that are working without taking away from thoses [sic] that are not.”
Two months later, Epstein sent another email to JP Morgan executives after the company prepared a presentation on the project, writing, “the presentation, is not tailored to [Bill]. He is the only person, the only one, that counts.”
Speaking to the Journal, a JP Morgan spokesperson said: “The firm didn’t need him for introductions. Knowing what we know today, we wish we had never done business with him.”
Similarly, the Journal reported that a Gates spokesperson “has said Epstein never worked for Gates and misrepresented their ties in communications with JP Morgan and others”.
In 2017, Epstein emailed Gates about Antonova after Gates’s extramarital affair ended, people familiar with the matter told the Journal. In the email, Epstein asked Gates to reimburse him for Antonova’s coding school costs.
“The tone of the message was that Epstein knew about the affair and could expose it, the people said,” the Journal reported, adding that a Gates spokesperson said that the Microsoft founder “had no financial dealings with Epstein”.
Two years later, in 2019, federal prosecutors charged Epstein with sex trafficking a minor and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. Epstein denied the charges and was refused bail. He died months later in custody in an apparent suicide.
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