Child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein claimed he made a fortune trafficking weapons and drugs, and former associates claim he worked with intelligence agencies around the world, according to a new report.
Vicky Ward, a journalist who was one of the first to cover Epstein nearly two decades ago, wrote in a new piece at Rolling Stone that Steven Hoffenberg, a former Epstein associate she visited in prison in 2002, said Epstein operated in intelligence circles around the world.
Hoffenberg, who was in prison for a Ponzi scheme, said he was conned by Epstein, who took millions from him and then cooperated with federal prosecutors in providing information against Hoffenberg.
Hoffenberg “claimed that Epstein moved in intelligence circles,” Ward wrote, adding Epstein became enraged when she asked him about Hoffenberg. Ward said Epstein threatened her personally if she wrote about his relationship with Hoffenberg, whom Epstein claimed not to know. Ward said Epstein’s reaction was similar to how he responded to questions about his relationships with young girls.
Hoffenberg told Ward that Epstein learned how to move money off-shore and that he was mentored by a British arms dealer, Douglas Leese, who died a decade ago.
I remember distinctly that in our first meeting Hoffenberg told me that Leese was pivotal in understanding Jeffrey’s MO, because Leese had introduced him not only to aristocratic Europeans (who Epstein subsequently fleeced) but to all sorts of people in the arms business — including the late Turkish-born businessman Adnan Kashoggi — and, allegedly, the late media mogul Robert Maxwell. … Leese’s name popped up again in my new reporting for a podcast and a documentary series about Maxwell’s daughter Ghislaine, who is currently awaiting trial on charges of helping Epstein in his alleged sex-trafficking operations of minors. (She has denied all charges.)
First, I found a lawsuit filed by Leese in Florida, in which he asserted that he “was involved with various highly confidential business enterprises including business in the United States, some of which involved governmentally- involved or other highly confidential business projects. Second, a source who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of what was discussed told me that Epstein had invited the source to join him and Leese on a private-jet trip to the Pentagon in 1981.
Hoffenberg told me that Epstein had said he’d worked on several projects with Robert Maxwell, including solving Maxwell’s “debt” issues. (Maxwell died in 1991, under vey strange circumstances, apparently having fallen off his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, in the middle of the night and it was discovered in the aftermath that he’d stolen 100s of millions of dollars from the pensions of his employees.)
Epstein had also told Hoffenberg that via Maxwell and Leese he was involved in something that Hoffenberg described as “national security issues,” which he says involved “blackmail, influence trading, trading information at a level that is very serious and dangerous.”
Multiple sources told Ward on the record that Epstein did, in fact, work in the arms world in the 1980s and that the work led to more work with governments around the world. However, Ward suggests that Epstein’s sex crimes were of his own volition, writing that sources told her that Epstein was the one who “decided to go one step further and compromise influential people by recording them doing things they wouldn’t want made public.” Ward also conceded that “all of this is completely unprovable.”
Ward noted that Epstein, after getting of out prison over a decade ago, bragged to numerous people about his connections to foreign governments and about powerful global politicians that he advised.
“He also told several of the same people that he was making a fortune out of arms, drugs, and diamonds,” Ward added. “Now, according to my sources in the intelligence world, this is hyperbole — but also not completely ridiculous. His name was mentioned as a middleman in both Africa and the Middle East. He was known in the intelligence world as a ‘hyper-fixer,’ somebody who can go between different cultures and networks.”