JPMorgan Chase on Tuesday defended itself against a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Virgin Islands accusing it of empowering Jeffrey Epstein to abuse teenage girls by arguing in court papers that it was the islands, not the bank, that enabled the financial to commit his crimes.
Lawyers for the bank said in the Manhattan federal court filing that the Virgin Islands government was complicit in allowing senior officials to be bought off by Epstein and actively working with him while “reaping the benefits of his wealth.”
“He gave them money, advice, influence and favors. In return, they protected and even rewarded him,” offering lucrative tax breaks worth millions of dollars, they wrote.
Most troubling, they said, was that island officials were “protecting Epstein, creating the perfect conditions for Epstein’s criminal conduct to continue undetected.”
The lawyers added: “For two decades, and long after JPMC left Epstein as a client, the entity that has most directly failed to protect public safety and most actively facilitated and benefited from the business Epstein’s continuing criminal charge was the plaintiff in this case – the USVI government itself”.
The Virgin Islands, where Epstein owned an estate, sued JPMorgan last year, saying its investigation found the financial services giant allowed Epstein’s recruiters to pay victims and was “indispensable to the operation and concealment of Epstein’s smuggling business”.
In their filing on Tuesday, lawyers for the bank said Virgin Islands officials looked the other way when Epstein walked through its airports with girls and young women as he generously donated to political campaigns. Lawyers said authorities were lenient with the requirement that he register as a sex offender, carrying out inspections of his residence that were “superficial at best”.
“In sum, in exchange for Epstein’s money and gifts, the USVI made his life easier,” the lawyers said. “The government has eased any burden related to his sex offender status. And it made sure no one wondered too much about her transporting and keeping young girls on her island.
Portions of the record have been heavily redacted. He asked Judge Jed Rakoff to reject the Islands’ attempts to block the bank from using defenses at trial that would expose the Islands’ role in Epstein’s dealings.
The lawyers wrote that “the alleged damages must be weighed against the significant benefits the USVI derived from its facilitation of Epstein’s crimes.”
Lawyers in the US Virgin Islands did not return emails seeking comment.
Epstein was 66 when he took his own life in August 2019 in a Manhattan federal prison where he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. He had pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing dozens of girls, some as young as 14.