TEL AVIV – Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak has acknowledged that he visited disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan residences and private Caribbean island but insisted that he never attended sex parties and was never with Epstein in the presence of women or young girls.
Barak, whose newly formed Israel Democratic Party is entering the political fray for the upcoming election, has come under fire for his ties to Epstein.
Epstein has been indicted for creating what prosecutors described as a network of underage girls whom he molested and exploited in the early 2000s.
Barak told The Daily Beast that he met with Epstein “more than 10 times and much less than a hundred times, but I can’t tell you exactly how many. I don’t keep count. Over the years, I’ve seen him on occasion.”
“I never attended a party with him,” Barak said. “I never met Epstein in the company of women or young girls.”
The Daily Mail in 2016 published a photo of Barak wearing a large hat while entering Epstein’s apartment in Manhattan.
“It is me in the picture,” he told the Daily Beast. “It was so cold the Middle Easterner had to put on a hat. I was there for lunch or chat, nothing else. So what?”
He said he had visited Epstein at two of his Manhattan residences as well as Epstein’s private Caribbean island, which some called “Pedophile Island,” once, “for several hours — and years after the publications about sex parties or orgies there.”
But, Barak added, “I’ve never been there at a party.”
“To the contrary,” Barak said, “at his home, I met many very respected people, scientists, Nobel Prize winners, and I met him also in Boston, at MIT or the Harvard labs he supports.”
“The man who introduced me to Epstein about 17 years ago was Shimon Peres,” Barak said, adding that he had met Epstein at an event where “there were many famous and important people, including, if I recall, both Clintons and hundreds of others.”
Barak also told the paper that he “unequivocally” had never met any women or girls and “there is no chance whatsoever” that any compromising pictures of him could surface.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week charged Barak, who served as prime minister, with having ties to Epstein a day after the billionaire was arrested in New York on allegations of child sex trafficking.
Barak in 2015 formed a limited partnership company in Israel called Sum (E.B.) 2015 in which he was majority shareholder. The aim was to invest in a startup called Reporty which last year changed its name to Carbyne. The company offers live audio, video and geolocation transmission for emergency services.
Barak, who serves as a director in the company, invested millions of shekels in it. A large part of the funds to buy Reporty stock was provided by Epstein, according to Haaretz.
Barak said on Saturday that he is looking at dissolving the limited partnership with Epstein.
Last week, Netanyahu tweeted a screenshot of a Hebrew-language report about Epstein’s arrest and his connection to Barak, calling for the former prime minister to be “investigated immediately.”
“And the media is silent,” Netanyahu wrote.
The report claimed that one of Epstein’s top clients is the founder of the Wexner Foundation, which gave Barak $2.3 million between 2004-2006. According to the report, it was the largest grant awarded by the foundation during those years, comprising half of its total expenditure in Israel. Barak made the claim that he was awarded the grant for his research, the report said. However, to date no such research has come to light and both Barak and the foundation have refused to give details.
It added that Epstein had been a trustee of the foundation when it again awarded Barak $1 million in 2004.
In an interview with Channel 12 Saturday, Barak said he was in contact with a company run by Epstein, but refused to disclose to what ends he had received the millions from the Wexner Foundation.
“There is no claim of any wrongdoing on my part,” Barak said. “Meanwhile, a sitting prime minister who is up to the neck in criminal cases is trying to create a comparison between himself and me with a story about a third private citizen of another country who has committed crimes. It’s one big spin and it’s important that the left does not fall into this trap of the prime minister’s making.”
About Epstein, Barak said, “he is accused of truly terrible things” and again drawing a comparison with Netanyahu, he added, “It’s not pleasant that people you know for years are involved in criminal activity.”
Speaking to the Daily Beast, Barak again declined to disclose details of the Wexner funds, saying only that he is “not supposed to discuss it.”
“I did what I committed to do,” he said.
“I perform research and geopolitical consulting for a lot of interested parties,” he said. “It is up to them if they want to discuss it.”
Barak defended his decision to enter into a business relationship with Epstein years after the financier had served jail time because his sentence was for “soliciting prostitution.”
“The indictment didn’t say she was a minor,” Barak told Channel 12.