US & Canada

Jeffrey Epstein: The financier charged with sex trafficking

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Media captionGeoffrey Berman: "If you believe you are a victim of this man... we want to hear from you."

"I'm not a sexual predator, I'm an 'offender,'" Jeffrey Epstein told the New York Post in 2011. "It's the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel."

More than a decade after his conviction for soliciting prostitution from a minor, registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has been charged in New York with sex trafficking.

The 66-year-old in the past socialised with Prince Andrew, President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton.

Now he is once again in court, accused of running a "vast network" of underage girls for sex. He has pleaded not guilty.

But who is Jeffrey Epstein?

'Terrific guy'

Born and raised in New York, Epstein taught maths and physics in the city at the private Dalton School in the mid 1970s. He had studied physics and maths himself at university, although he never graduated.

A father of one of his students is said to have been so impressed that he put Epstein in touch with a senior partner at the Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns.

He was a partner there within four years. By 1982, he had created his own firm - J Epstein and Co.

The company managed assets of clients worth more than $1bn (£800m) and was an instant success. Epstein soon began spending his fortune - including on a mansion in Florida, a ranch in New Mexico, and reputedly the largest private home in New York - and socialising with celebrities, artists and politicians.

"I've known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy," Donald Trump told New York magazine for a profile on Epstein in 2002. "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.

"No doubt about it - Jeffrey enjoys his social life."

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Image caption Jeffrey Epstein, left, with Donald Trump at the current president's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in 1997

In 2002, Epstein flew former President Bill Clinton and the actors Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker to Africa on a customized private jet. He made an unsuccessful bid to buy New York magazine with then film producer Harvey Weinstein in 2003 - the same year he made a $30m donation to Harvard University.

But he also strove to keep his life private, reportedly shunning society events and dinners in restaurants.

He dated women like Miss Sweden winner Eva Andersson Dubin and Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of publisher Robert Maxwell, although he never married.

Rosa Monckton, the former CEO of Tiffany & Co, told Vanity Fair for a 2003 article that Epstein was "very enigmatic" and "a classic iceberg".

"You think you know him and then you peel off another ring of the onion skin and there's something else extraordinary underneath," she said. "What you see is not what you get."

Conviction and plea deal

In 2005, the parents of a 14-year-old girl told police in Florida that Epstein had molested their daughter at his Palm Beach home. A police search of the property found photos of girls throughout the house.

The Miami Herald reports that his abuse of underage girls dated back years.

"This was not a 'he said, she said' situation," Palm Beach Police Chief Michael Reiter told the newspaper. "This was 50-something 'shes' and one 'he' - and the 'shes' all basically told the same story."

However, prosecutors forged a deal with the hedge fund manager in 2008.

He avoided federal charges - which could have seen him face in life in prison - and instead received an 18-month prison sentence, during which he was able to go on "work release" to his office for 12 hours a day, six days a week. He was released on probation after 13 months.

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Image caption Prince Andrew, left, has been criticised for his association with Jeffrey Epstein

The Miami Herald says that the federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta - now Secretary of Labour in the Trump administration - struck a plea agreement hiding the extent of his crimes and ending an FBI investigation into whether there were more victims or more powerful people who took part. The paper described it as the "deal of the century".

Since 2008 Epstein has been listed as a level three on the New York sex offenders register. It is a lifelong designation meaning he is at a high risk of reoffending.

But Epstein maintained his properties and his assets after his conviction. He was arrested in New York on 6 July after flying back from Paris on his private jet.

Prosecutors are now reportedly seeking the forfeiture of his New York mansion, where some of his alleged crimes occurred. If convicted, he could face a maximum 45-year prison term.

"He has never been secretive about the girls," columnist Michael Wolff told New York magazine for a 2007 profile piece, as the case against Epstein moved through the courts.

"At one point, when his troubles began, he was talking to me and said, 'What can I say, I like young girls.' I said, 'Maybe you should say, 'I like young women.'"

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