Former Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak has said he visited convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein‘s private Caribbean island and Manhattan mansion, but never partied with him or met younger girls while he was there.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Barak said he met with Epstein “more than 10 times and much less than a hundred times,” but never in the presence of women or young girls.
“I never attended a party with him,” Barak, who led Israel from 1999 to 2001, said. “I never met Epstein in the company of women or young girls.”
He added that many influential figures and political elites, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, were members of Epstein’s circle.
“At [Epstein’s] 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.”
In January 2016, Barak was inadvertently photographed by Daily Mail paparazzo wearing a huge winter coat and a Russian-style pelt hat entering Epstein’s Manhattan mansion.
The Upper East Side mansion was named by prosecutors as one of the locations at which Epstein is accused of having sex with young women.
When asked by The Daily Beast about the meeting, Barak said: “It is me in the picture. It was so cold the Middle Easterner had to put on a hat. I was there, for lunch or chat, nothing else. So what?”
On Sunday, Barak defended his business ties with Epstein on Israeli TV, saying he had no idea that the wealthy financier was convicted of prostitution involving a minor in 2008.
“He’d served his sentence for soliciting prostitution — the indictment didn’t say she was a minor,” Barak said.
“The American system itself did not label him as a persona non grata … the secretary who just resigned in the Trump administration was the prosecutor and he said he’d been negligent — so you expect me to have noticed?”
The revelation that Barak visited Epstein’s Caribbean island comes less than a month after he announced in June that he planned to form a new political party to challenge incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has often targeted Barak over his ties to Epstein. Most recently, on July 9, Netanyahu tweeted: “What else did the sex offender give Ehud Barak?”
Epstein’s accusers have testified that the financier recruited under-aged girls around the world, and that he leveraged his wealth and connections to extend his sex trafficking operation.
Epstein is the only person accused of crimes in the current indictment. He is currently being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
He is pleading not guilty the charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. He faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison.
The charging document alleged Epstein “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations.”