JPMorgan Chase defended itself on Tuesday against a lawsuit from the US Virgin Islands that accused Jeffrey Epstein of abusing teenage girls by arguing in court papers that it was the islands, not the bank , which enabled the financier to commit his crimes.
Lawyers for the bank said in a Manhattan federal court filing that the government of the Virgin Islands was in collusion, with high-ranking officials bought off by Epstein and actively working with him to “take advantage of his wealth.”
“They gave him money, advice, influence and favors. In return, they protected and even rewarded him,” he wrote, while providing millions of dollars in lucrative tax breaks.
Most troubling, he said, is that officials on the islands “protected Epstein, fostered the right conditions for Epstein’s criminal conduct to go undetected.”
The lawyers said: “For two decades, and long after Epstein’s exit as a client, JPMC, the entity that most perceptibly failed to protect public safety and Epstein’s continued criminal activity Most actively facilitated and benefited from, in this case was the plaintiff – the USVI government itself.
The Virgin Islands, where Epstein had assets, sued JPMorgan last year, saying its investigation showed the financial services giant enabled Epstein’s recruiters to pay off victims and “Epstein was indispensable to the operation and concealment of the trafficking enterprise.”
In their filing Tuesday, lawyers for the bank said Virgin Islands officials looked the other way when Epstein passed through their airports with girls and young women because he donated generously to political campaigns. Lawyers said officers were lenient with the requirements that he register as a sex offender, conducting inspections of his residence that were “cursory at best”.
“In short, in exchange for Epstein’s cash and gifts, the USVI made life easier for him,” the lawyers said. “The government eased any burden from his sex offender status. And it made sure that no one asked too many questions about his transportation and keeping of the young girls on his island.
Portions of the filing were heavily edited. It asked Judge Jed Rakoff to reject the Islands’ efforts to block the bank from using the defense in a lawsuit that would expose the Islands’ role in Epstein’s dealings.
The attorneys wrote that “the alleged damages must be balanced against the considerable benefits derived by the USVI from facilitating Epstein’s crimes.”
Attorneys for the US Virgin Islands did not respond to emailed messages seeking comment.
Epstein was 66 when he took his own life in August 2019 at the Manhattan federal prison where he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. He had pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually abusing dozens of girls, some of whom were as young as 14.