In an interview with M.L. Nestel published by New York Magazine Wednesday, the former bodyguard of Jeffrey Epstein — the wealthy financier who was found dead in his cell from suspected self-strangulation on Saturday amid a series of unusual circumstances — contradicted statements Nestel said he made to him in a previous, unpublished interview conducted four years ago.
"To be honest, I didn't expect that he'd try to back away from the assertions he made in our original interview — but he did," writes Nestel in the lead-in to the interview. "He also seemed, it is safe to say, quite nervous about saying anything at all."
The disgraced financier's former bodyguard, former Russian UFC fighter Igor Zinoviev, told Nestel in the follow-up interview that he "never" talked with Epstein about the first case against him, which resulted in the billionaire pleading guilty to underage prostitution charges.
Nestel, who appeared genuinely surprised by the assertion, followed up by reading what he said was a direct quote from Zinoviev in their 2015 interview about Epstein's relationships with teenage girlfriends: "So many time I tried to stop him. I try to tell tell him my opinion about that. He don't listen to me. That's the reason why I'm not working for him no more. I make him do that — to let me go."
When he asked Zinoviev if he remembered saying that, the former bodyguard denied ever saying anything about teenage girls. "I tell you I never see teenage girls. Plenty of times when I work for him I never see anything unproper or teenage girls around him," he said.
"So now you say you only saw him with women? Older than 18? 20?" Nestel replied.
"All what I say he has always been with girlfriends and there was a couple girls — I don't remember their names. She was 25 and worked for him as assistant. Maybe 25 or 23 — whatever, I don't know the age," Zinoviev said.
When Nestel stressed that he "definitely" told him previously there were teenage girls involved, Zinoviev said, "No, no. It's not that. He working like work-release on other stuff. And I just tell him, you know, he would order his girlfriends around, and I told him, 'Calm down.' It's not just teenage girls," Zinoviev replied. "I never see teenage girls in my life at his house. That's what it is. That's a misunderstanding. Completely."
Nestel later read Zinoviev another direct quote from their 2015 conversation: "He had a couple girlfriends. They have no idea the degree of what they are doing. But you can't tell nothing to them. Because they support him kind of. For the while, this one girl can be more attached to him, he just fire her. Fire them and keep them away. For example, I give you some idea: You have private plane and you have three girlfriends and one girl can be more attached to him. And next week — he don't take that girl. He takes another one, and he just switch them. He brings them on a couple trips and then get different girls. That's what he doing."
When he asked the former MMA fighter if he remembered saying that, he replied, "Kind of not!" Nestel pushed back, saying he understands it's all "sensitive," but Zinoviev insisted that it's "kind of a little uncorrect."
Nestel responded with another of what he said was a direct quote from Zinoviev in response to Nestel saying Epstein was being investigated for activity with teenage girls: "I'm not surprised at all. I'm just surprised how low he can be outside the real world. Someday is going to call him and it will be real jail. He have so much money he can pay it off. Me personally, if I caught him with my daughter or something do that — I'm not going to go to police. I do something else. Much worse. That guy could try to sue me and manipulate the situation with his money. That's the American way. I know he screwed up a lot of fashion girls also. That's a different story."
Zinoviev replied that he remembered the line about a father's response, but added, "Before that stuff, I don't know." After Nestel stressed that he doesn't "have anything to be afraid of anymore" because Epstein's dead, Zinoviev insisted he's "not afraid." "I don’t want anything to be uncorrect," he added. "There's too much shit in here, you know, already. He's dead and just like, freaking people, just leave him alone." (Read the full interview here.)