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Fact check: Joe Biden does not own island in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Correction July 27, 2020: A previous version of this article referenced a Politico article published on January 28, 2019. Correcting paragraph four to reflect the article’s publication date, January 28, 2020.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Posts circulating on Facebook make the primary claim that former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden owns a private island in the Caribbean next to Little St. James, the island owned by the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. This claim is false.

Examples of such posts can be found here&set=a.331625287187022&type=3&theater , here&set=a.10153619676750261&type=3&theater  and here&set=a.117769741728791&type=3&theater .  

According to the online real estate database company Zillow, Joe and Jill Biden own a home (  here  ) in Wilmington, Delaware. The Bidens also have a vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (  here  ). Reuters could find no other reports or records indicating that the Bidens owned any additional properties. As reported by the Washington Post, the Bidens rent a home in McLean, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.  (  here  ).  

Reuters could not find any evidence that Joe Biden owns any properties in the Caribbean. This claim may stem from an article published by Politico on January 28, 2020 titled “Lobbyist bought tropical land from Biden’s brother.” (here ). Search results for “Joe Biden” and “U.S. Virgin Islands” lead to Politico’s article and coverage of the Biden’s vacationing in this part of the Caribbean.  

The article outlines how in 2005, Biden’s brother James and his wife Sara bought a piece of land on Water Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The following year they resold a third of the land for what had been the total cost of the entire property to Scott Green, co-founder of Lafayette Group, a consultancy that works and lobbies with the U.S. Government on public safety programs. The “land deal” was related to Joe Biden’s brother James, not Joe Biden. Politico reported that it was unclear if Joe was aware of his brother’s sale, though Politico reported Green and Joe Biden were “close” (saying “It is also not clear whether Joe Biden was aware of the transactions”).

Biden never owned land on Water Island. His past vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands (here) and his brother’s land deal likely serve as the source of this misinformation. 

The posts also claim that Biden is storing a submarine belonging to Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend and longtime associate, on his alleged island, and purports that Maxwell’s family owns a submarine company based in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Reuters was not able to find any evidence that Maxwell’s family owns or operates a submarine company.

A profile on Maxwell published by Vanity Fair on July 3, 2020, the day after her arrest, describes her relationship with American billionaire Ted Waitt in the early 2000s. According to Vanity Fair, the couple “sailed aboard the 240-foot mega-yacht she helped him purchase, the Plan B. It was equipped with a helipad, Jacuzzi, elevator, gym, and onboard submarine, which Maxwell was soon licensed to pilot” (  here  ). 

The submarine claim may also stem from the fact that Water Island “once protected a nearby submarine base before it became a tropical getaway” (here). According to the Virgin Islands Campground website, “Fort Segarra was built as part of the United States’ defense strategies during World War II to protect the submarine base on St. Thomas” (  here ).  

As reported here by Newsweek, after the war, “the Army's Chemical Warfare Division used the island as a laboratory for poisonous gas and chemical agents.” An investment banker named Walter Philips bought the island in 1951 and converted the former Army barracks into a hotel and building Honeymoon Beach, which was featured in the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. More information on the history of Water Island can be found here .  

The Reuters Fact Check team previously debunked the claim that Joe Biden lives in the biggest mansion in his state, among other pieces of misinformation here .  

VERDICT

False. Joe Biden does not own an island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .  

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