February 11, 2020 / 5:37 PM / 15 days ago

Jeffrey Epstein's estate blames U.S. Virgin Islands AG for lack of payouts to victims

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer for Jeffrey Epstein’s estate on Tuesday blamed the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands for its inability to begin payouts to victims of the late financier’s sexual abuse.

FILE PHOTO: Little St. James Island, one of the properties of financier Jeffrey Epstein, is seen in an aerial view near Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands July 21, 2019. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

At a hearing in federal court in Manhattan, the lawyer Bennet Moskowitz said Attorney General Denise George’s lawsuit and filing of liens against the estate, plus her intervention in the probate of Epstein’s will, have left the estimated $577.7 million estate unable to pay even basic expenses.

He said that hurts Epstein’s accusers, the “vast majority” of whom have expressed interest in participating in a fund to compensate them, and none of whom is represented by George.

“Very regrettably,” Moskowitz said, “the attorney general for the Virgin Islands has decided for whatever reason to impede the program.

“As I sit here today, I don’t know when the program will be established, but time is of the essence ... and we may miss the window for fulsome participation.”

George’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The fund would allow victims to be paid confidentially. Its administrators would include Kenneth Feinberg, who worked on a fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Epstein died at age 66 by hanging himself in his Manhattan jail cell last Aug. 10, five weeks after being arrested on charges he abused and trafficked in women and girls from 2002 to 2005 in Manhattan and Florida. He had pleaded not guilty.

In her lawsuit, George said Epstein’s misconduct on the Virgin Islands ran from 2001 to 2018, and included raping and trafficking in dozens of women and girls on Little St. James, a private island he saw as “the perfect hideaway.”

More than 20 Epstein accusers have filed civil lawsuits against the estate. Tuesday’s hearing discussed those cases, some of which may be resolved through the compensation fund.

Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for some accusers, found “no small degree of irony” in the struggles of the executors, one of whom was a longtime lawyer for Epstein, noting that Epstein signed his will and arranged for probate in the Virgin Islands two days before his death.

“It was obviously quite deliberate that the Virgin Islands was chosen as the jurisdiction,” Kaplan said.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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