Jeffrey Epstein had tried to blackmail Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates after discovering the billionaire had an affair with a Russian bridge player years earlier, according to a Wall Street Journal report on the notorious sex trafficker.
Gates allegedly met the woman around 2010, when she was in her 20s. Epstein, a disgraced financier, met the bridge player in 2013 and reportedly paid for her to attend classes for software coding. Epstein emailed Gates in 2017 asking to be reimbursed for the course’s cost, people familiar with the matter told the Journal, which published its report on Sunday.
Epstein allegedly sent the email after he attempted, unsuccessfully, to convince Gates to participate in a multibillion dollar charity fund he tried to start at JPMorgan Chase. According to the Journal’s report, the purpose behind Epstein’s email was to convey that he could reveal Gates’ affair if the billionaire didn’t maintain an association with the convicted sex offender.
A representative for Gates did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, however a spokesperson confirmed to the Journal that Epstein “tried unsuccessfully to leverage a past relationship to threaten Mr Gates.”
Gates began meeting with Epstein in 2011, when the financier was already convicted of sex crimes and had to register as a sex offender, The New York Times reported in 2019. Gates previously said that the purpose of meeting with Epstein was to raise money for global health, in line with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s goal of improving health care access worldwide.
In January, Gates said he regrets maintaining a relationship with Epstein despite ex-wife Melinda French Gates saying she felt uncomfortable with the meetings.
“You’re going way back in time,” Bill Gates told Australia’s ABC 7.30 show. “I will say for the over 100th time, yeah, I shouldn’t have had dinners with him.”
Mila Antonova, the bridge player, told the Journal that she did not know about Epstein’s disgraced reputation when Gates confidant Boris Nikolic introduced her to him. Antonova tried unsuccessfully to have Epstein help fund her business idea to teach people how to play bridge online, but the financier did help pay for her to attend a programming boot camp.
“Epstein agreed to pay and he paid directly to the school,” she told the outlet. “Nothing was exchanged. I don’t know why he did that. When I asked, he said something like, he was wealthy and wanted to help people when he could.”
Epstein was accused in 2006 of sexually abusing young girls, and was convicted two years later of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution. The disgraced financier registered as a sex offender and spent time in jail in Florida.
Epstein was arrested again in 2019 on sex trafficking charges after a bombshell Miami Herald report revealed dozens more women who detailed abuse. He was found dead in his New York jail cell later that year while awaiting trial. The New York medical examiner’s office concluded that he died by suicide.