An obscure bank set up by Jeffrey Epstein in the United States Virgin Islands has received millions of dollars after his death in August 2019, The New York Times reports.
Epstein’s bank, Southern Country International, was set up in 2014 as an international banking entity, a structure that does business only with offshore investors.
Murky money transfers
Around the time Epstein died by reported suicide in his prison cell in August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, Southern Country reportedly had just $693,000 in assets.
In the following months, it received $15.5 million in two instalments from Epstein’s estate and sent back $2.6 million, according to the estate’s filings cited by the NYT. This would have left the bank with about $13.6 million, but its assets were valued at just under $500,000 by the end of 2019. It’s not clear what the bank did with the transfers from the estate.
An evasive application
Epstein, who had resided in the sun-kissed islands since 1996, applied for a banking license in 2013, years after his plea bargain with Florida prosecutors on state charges of soliciting and procuring prostitution from a minor helped him avoid heavier federal charges but forced him to register as a sex offender in the US Virgin Islands in 2010.
In his application, Epstein touted himself as “one of the pioneers of derivative and option-based investing” who looks to “shift his focus to the dynamic discipline of international banking”.
He admitted having faced “some legal difficulties” in Florida but emphasised that the federal investigation was “discontinued in 2008”.
Southern Country was granted a licence the following year and renewed it each of the next five years. The documents provide no details on whether the bank had conducted any business prior to Epstein’s death (a lawyer for Epstein said in 2018 that it had not commenced operations).
The fight over Epstein's legacy
Nearly two dozen women are suing Epstein’s estate, claiming that the late money manager had trafficked and forced them into sex; many of the alleged victims say they were under age. It is claimed that some of the crimes happened on one of the two neighbouring private islands he owned in the US Virgin Islands, Little St. James and Great St. James.
The estate has proposed to turn part of his $577-million fortune into a fund to settle the claims of all of his alleged victims.
Last month, Virgin Island Attorney General Denise N. George objected to this in a separate lawsuit against the estate. Local officials argued that it was too soon to establish the fund because there had been no comprehensive inventory of Epstein’s assets from his representatives. They also suggested that the two executors could have a conflict of interest because of their association with Epstein, and that the Virgin Islands government should be allowed to seize his property and the two islands, valued at $86 million.