JPMorgan Chase calls U.S. Virgin Islands complicit in Jeffrey Epstein crimes

JPMorgan Chase calls U.S. Virgin Islands complicit in Jeffrey Epstein crimes

Albert Bryan Jr., Governor of the United States Virgin Islands, speaks during the SelectUSA Investment Summit in National Harbor, Maryland May 2, 2023.

Ting Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

JPMorgan Chase In a court filing Tuesday, he labeled the U.S. Virgin Islands an “complicity in the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein” and said the sex offender gave money, advice and favors to senior officials there in exchange for looking the other way when he was young Women for Abuse acted on his island vacation.

“For two decades, and long after JPMC left Epstein as a client, the plaintiff in this case was the company that has most blatantly failed to protect public safety and has most actively supported and benefited from Epstein’s continued criminal activity — the USVI government itself,” the bank said in the Manhattan federal court filing.

“Rather than stop him, they helped him,” JPMorgan said, citing millions of dollars in tax incentives and other benefits the territory gave to Epstein.

This allegation comes as JPMorgan is defending itself against a US Virgin Islands civil lawsuit alleging that the bank knowingly facilitated and benefited from Epstein’s sex trade when he was a customer from 1998 to 2013.

A spokesman for the Virgin Islands attorney general’s office told CNBC on Tuesday, “JPMorgan Chase facilitated the abuse of Jeffrey Epstein and should be held accountable for violating the law.”

“This is an apparent attempt to shift blame from JPMorgan Chase, which was legally required to report evidence in its possession of Epstein’s human trafficking but failed to do so,” the spokesman said.

In the bank’s filing on Tuesday, Judge Jed Rakoff was asked to deny a Virgin Islands motion that would bar JPMorgan from making certain so-called affirmative objections to the lawsuit.

“USVI’s motion is designed to attack only the specific defenses that threaten to expose his relationship with Epstein,” the filing reads.

In a footnote, the filing states that the Virgin Islands has had three governors for the past 16 years: John de Jongh, Kenneth Mapp, and the current governor, Albert Bryan Jr.

“As detailed here, Epstein had close ties to each of them,” the footnote reads.

Earlier Tuesday, another court filing revealed for the first time that Bryan is set to be fired for the June 6 lawsuit. A source familiar with the situation told CNBC that JPMorgan has sought to remove Bryan, who has been governor since 2019.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is set to be fired in Friday’s lawsuit in New York.

Rakoff authorized the Virgin Islands to serve a subpoena last week Tesla CEO Elon Musk on his electric car company and is looking for any documents Musk may have showing any communications with him, Epstein and JPMorgan.

This subpoena is based on the Territory’s suspicions that Epstein may have referred Musk or attempted to refer him to the bank as a client.

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A former friend of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, Epstein maintained a home on a private island in the territory where he sexually abused many young women over the years. He used money from his JPMorgan accounts to pay women and fly them there.

In its filing Tuesday, JPMorgan noted that when Epstein was released from a Florida prison after pleading guilty to soliciting a minor for sex, Epstein attempted to have his probation transferred from that state to the Virgin Islands to reach where he registered as a sex offender. He also retained his primary residence in the jurisdiction, placing him “under the direct jurisdiction and oversight of USVI law enforcement agencies,” the filing said.

The bank claims there was a “decades-long quid pro quo between Epstein and the USVI government” that took three forms.

“First, for years, senior USVI officials have courted and happily embraced Epstein’s influence in the form of gifts, favors and political donations,” the filing reads.

“Second, USVI granted Epstein preferential treatment in exchange for more than US dollars.” [amount redacted] Millions of dollars in tax incentives and other benefits. Third, and most troubling, USVI protected Epstein, creating the perfect conditions for Epstein’s criminal behavior to continue undetected.”

Specifically, the filing states that Epstein endorsed the candidacy of Stacey Plaskett, the US Virgin Islands delegate to the US House of Representatives, after she worked for the USVI Economic Development Authority, which gave Epstein “massive tax benefits.” Plaskett also worked at a law firm that represented him in business matters, the filing said.

According to the bank, Epstein and his associates donated more than $30,000 to Plaskett’s congressional elections.

The filing states that Epstein’s “principal agent for the dissemination of money and influence through” the Virgin Islands government was then-First Lady Cecile de Jongh, wife of former Governor de Jongh, who served from 2007 to 2015.

And “despite her public role and official duties, First Lady de Jongh managed Epstein’s USVI-based businesses … and received a salary, bonuses and other benefits from Epstein,” the filing reads.

Jeffrey Epstein’s former home on Little St. James Island in the US Virgin Islands.

Emily Michot | Miami Herald | Getty Images

Many details of claims related to Cecile de Jongh are redacted from the file, but in one paragraph the bank says that in addition to working for its companies, it “lobbied extensively on his behalf with government officials, including the governor.”

Another heavily redacted section of the filing said the Virgin Islands “supported Epstein’s criminal activities.” The specific claims of how the government did this are being redacted.

Almost entirely redacted is a section of the filing entitled “Epstein lobbied USVI legislation on sex offenders and received lax supervision.” In an unredacted section, the bank’s attorneys wrote: “The USVI did conduct on-site inspections of Epstein’s homes through, but these inspections were superficial at best.”

“Despite the direct injection of lucrative tax incentives [redacted] and lax enforcement, without the support of USVI government officials, Epstein still could not freely transport and exploit young women,” the filing said.

“In exchange for Epstein’s money and gifts, USVI made his life easier,” the filing reads. “The government has eased the burdens stemming from his sex offender status. And she made sure nobody asked too many questions about his transportation and housing young girls on his island.”

The lawsuit against JPMorgan was filed in late December by then-Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George, who received a $105 million settlement from Epstein’s estate a month earlier. Days after she filed that lawsuit, Bryan fired George, who had been attorney general for four years.

The governor reportedly fired George because she failed to inform him that she planned to sue JPMorgan, the largest bank in the United States.

Despite George’s sacking, the Virgin Islands have continued to aggressively pursue their legal battle against the bank.

Tuesday saw another in a series of private conference calls with Rakoff about the case.

A public filing summed up the outcome of that conference, which included lawyers from the Virgin Islands, JPMorgan, former JPMorgan executive Jes Staley, and an Epstein accuser, who is facing a separate, similar lawsuit against the bank. JPMorgan is attempting to shift any legal liability it may have in the lawsuit onto Staley, who was a contact for Epstein at the bank.

“The questioning of Albert Bryan Jr. is scheduled for June 6,” the filing reads.

The entry also states, “All parties other than JP Morgan are directed to contact former JP Morgan officers and directors only through an attorney.”

CNBC asked US attorneys and JPMorgan for comment on Tuesday’s conference.

On July 8, 2019, indictments were filed against Jeffrey Epstein in New York City. Epstein faces one count of child sex trafficking and one count of conspiracy to sex traffick a child.

Stephanie Keith | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Epstein, 66, died by suicide in a Manhattan jail in August 2019, a month after he was arrested and charged with child trafficking in federal court in Manhattan.

Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida in 2008 to soliciting sex from an underage girl and was sentenced to 13 months in prison.

His previous criminal trial and prison sentence, known to JPMorgan at the time, fell midway through his tenure as a client of the bank, where he held accounts from 1998 until ending his relationship with him in 2013.

Epstein then became a customer of Deutsche Bank.

Deutsche Bank Last week, an agreement was reached to settle a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court filed by another Epstein accuser who claimed the bank facilitated and profited from his sex trade. Deutsche Bank will pay Epstein victims $75 million as part of the deal.

In 2020, Deutsche Bank agreed to pay the New York Financial Regulator a $150 million fine for its dealings with Epstein and other matters.

“We recognize our error in onboarding Epstein in 2013 and the weaknesses in our processes and have learned from our mistakes and shortcomings,” bank spokesman Dylan Riddle said last week.

– CNBC’s Eamon Javers contributed to this report.

Correction: Updated some previous headlines for this story to reflect the correct spelling of Jeffrey Epstein’s name.