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Can Money Buy Silence?

How Epstein Ran a Child Sex Trafficking Ring and Got Away With It.

By Eilidh McCartney

Illustration of court scene at Epstein's trial
Illustration: Christine Cornell

Who was Epstein?

Jeffrey Epstein was a millionaire who operated in elite social circles and was associated with various politicians and billionaires such as Donald Trump, Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton. In 2002 Trump (a close friend of Epstein) was quoted in New York magazine saying,

“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. 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.”

This was terrifying foreshadowing of what was to come. Epstein’s girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, was a longtime friend of Prince Andrew. Epstein’s butler later testified that Prince Andrew stayed at Epstein’s Florida home for weeks at a time. Epstein owned several properties including a large townhouse in New York City; a mansion in the wealthy haven of Palm Beach, Florida; an apartment in the centre of Paris; and an entire private island in the Caribbean which subsequently became known as ‘Epstein Island’.

Former staff on the island claim that Epstein frequently had visitors flown in to stay including billionaire Les Wexner and former CEO of Barclays, Jes Staley.

A Very Brief Timeline

After a long police investigation, Epstein was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 after pleading guilty to soliciting prostitution from a girl below the age of consent in Florida. He was then released on probation in 2009.

Following the initial criminal court case in 2008, Epstein was met with several civil cases in which Donald Trump, Prince Andrew and Epstein’s then girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, were also implicated.

In 2019, Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and was imprisoned in New York awaiting trial. Epstein was later found dead on August 10th, 2019, before a trial took place. In 2022, Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment on child sexual trafficking charges.

Released Documents

Epstein hit headlines again this month as part of the court transcripts from Maxwell’s and Epstein’s trials were unsealed and released to the public. In these transcripts, witnesses describe how Maxwell and Epstein recruited these young women as masseuses, but the reality of the ‘job’ became much more sinister. Victims were asked to sexually stimulate Epstein whilst he masturbated. Victims also testified that he would use a vibrator on them, and that Maxwell would encourage this and sometimes join in. The girls were paid and pressured to bring a friend with them ‘next time’, expanding the network of girls he was able to access.

Epstein and Maxwell allegedly name dropped their rich and powerful friends such as Clinton, Trump and Prince Andrew, to scare their victims into silence. Virginia Guiffre also alleges that she was sexually abused by Prince Andrew at one of Epstein’s properties.

The Rich and Powerful

Though none of Epstein’s visitors have been charged with the sexual abuse of any of the victims, are we really to believe that none of his visitors questioned why he had so many underage employees?

However, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Afterall, we’ve seen this before with Savile. Trump hinted at knowing about Epstein’s fondness for women on ‘the younger side’, but Savile openly made ‘jokes’ to the press such as “she told me she was over 16”. Even in the Louis Theroux documentary Savile was asked if he was a paedophile, to which he responded:

“It's easier for me, as a single man, to say "I don't like children" because that puts a lot of salacious tabloid people off the hunt.... How do they know whether I am [a paedophile] or not? How does anybody know whether I am? Nobody knows whether I am or not. I know I'm not.”

It’s terrifying how public paedophilia allegations can be and still is many years before any legal action is enacted. Savile never saw any consequences. At his funeral he was praised for his dedication to charity work throughout his life.

It was only in death that the media began to investigate the very public allegations made against him. The BBC faced scrutiny upon the reveal that they had ‘shelved’ evidence of the abuse discovered by their Newslight team.

But the problem isn’t simply that the rich are more likely to get away with horrific crimes. Even when prosecuted, the consequences are light in comparison. During Epstein’s ’18 months of imprisonment’ he was detained in a private wing and permitted to leave the prison for up to 12 hours a day to ‘work’. His cell door was authorised to be left unlocked and employees of the prison were paid by him to ‘supervise’ him during his detainment. This was a man who had been convicted of soliciting prostitution from a child and not only was his sentencing minimal, the conditions of his imprisonment were completely different to that of any other less wealthy inmate. 

As the Miami Herald said, he had been given “the deal of a lifetime”.

The Criminalisation of Poverty

So how is it that Epstein was sentenced to only eighteen months for a sex crime, when he could’ve been sentenced for up to five years imprisonment? A mother-of-seven named Twanda Marshinda Brown spent fifty-seven days in a jail in South Carolina because she was unable to pay a $100 traffic fine in 2016. So, are Epstein’s crimes simply the equivalent of ten missed fines?

Why is it that bail requires cash? Why is it that parking tickets must be paid off? Why is it that street begging and loitering are illegal in the USA?

Poverty is criminalised throughout the legal system. Double parking is effectively legal if you can afford to pay the fine. Bail is often only possible if you are a millionaire.

If you are rich enough, life is handed to you on a silver platter. If you are rich enough you will face only 18 months in prison after committing a sex crime against a minor, supervised by people on your payroll, in a private wing with your cell door unlocked.

Thus, though the standalone story of Epstein is scary, the wider picture is terrifying. How is it that he got away with it for so long? What else don’t we know? What can money really buy?


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