Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘paedophile island’ is getting a major rebrand - as a luxury resort

The island of Little St James  (REUTERS)
The island of Little St James (REUTERS)

For years, it was known to victims as the “paedophile island”.

It was a place where Jeffrey Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell lured girls and vulnerable young women, dazzled by the glamour of a spectacular, paradise Caribbean island.

Once there – and with no way of getting off the islands – these victims were sexually abused by Epstein and allegedly trafficked to his powerful, wealthy circle of clients.

Dozens of celebrities and famous figures also visited the 70-plus-acre island of Little St. James and 160-plus-acre island of Great St. James – visits that, based on what later came to light, many would rather erase from public memory.

There’s no denying that these islands have dark pasts.

But, they are now having a total makeover – courtesy of a new owner and his grand plans to transform the infamous hideaway into a luxury, five-star resort.

After Epstein’s suicide in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019, the islands initially became the subject of a legal battle between the US Virgin Islands and the late paedophile’s estate.

Little St James (as it used to look) is getting a makeover (Reuters)
Little St James (as it used to look) is getting a makeover (Reuters)

A settlement was finally reached and the islands hit the market for a staggering asking price of $125m.

In May 2023, billionaire private equity boss Stephen Deckoff snapped up the two islands for less than half, at $60m.

Mr Deckoff, the founder of private equity firm Black Diamond Capital Management who has lived on the US Virgin Islands for over a decade, is now building a 25-room five-star luxury resort on the property.

“I’ve been proud to call the US Virgin Islands home for more than a decade and am tremendously pleased to be able to bring the area a world-class destination benefitting its natural grace and beauty,” he said in an interview with Forbes at the time.

“I very much look forward to working with the US Virgin Islands to make this dream a reality.”

Under the plans, the Caribbean island that became known for all the wrong reasons will soon be welcoming wealthy tourists and sun-seekers to “a state-of-the-art, five-star, world-class luxury 25-room resort that will help bolster tourism, create jobs, and spur economic development in the region”, according to a press release announcing the purchase.

Any development on the island, which already boasted multiple villa properties, pools and a helipad, will be done so “respecting and preserving the important environment of the islands”.

Mr Deckoff originally hails from New York but made the US Virgin Islands his home back in 2011.

To him, there is nowhere quite like the Caribbean islands, with their white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters.

“There is simply no place in the world as special as the US Virgin Islands and I am humbled by the opportunity to share its splendor with visitors in a manner that will provide economic benefits to the region while respecting its culture, history and natural beauty,” he said in a statement.

The luxury resort, located close to St Thomas, is expected to open to guests in 2025.

Mr Deckoff told Forbes that he had never set foot on the islands when they were owned by Epstein – and had never met Epstein himself.

Names of the people who did associate with the sex trafficker have now started to emerge.

Dozens of Epstein associates were revealed on 3 January after a judge ordered the unsealing of court documents in a now-settled lawsuit brought by Ms Giuffre against Maxwell. An individual being named in the documents does not necessarily indicate any wrongdoing.

Ms Giuffre filed the defamation lawsuit against Maxwell in 2015, after she accused her of lying about the years-long abuse she had suffered at the hands of Epstein and some in his inner circle.

Among the alleged abuse, Ms Giuffre has claimed that Prince Andrew raped her on Little St James when she was a minor. Andrew has always strongly denied all the allegations against him, while Buckingham Palace previously said all accusations made against the duke are “categorically untrue”. He settled a lawsuit with Ms Giuffre in 2022 for an undisclosed sum.

The suit with Maxwell was settled in 2017 but was placed under a protective seal – with the identities of those named in the filings kept under lock and key.

The Miami Herald sued for the release of the sealed documents while Maxwell’s legal team sought to block it.

Around 2,000 pages of documents were first unsealed in 2019, with further documents released over the following years.

But, this current trove of documents remained sealed – and the names of hundreds of people associated with the dead paedophile were kept secret, known only as Jane and John Does.

A gazebo pictured on Little St James back in 2019 (AP)
A gazebo pictured on Little St James back in 2019 (AP)

Then, in a landmark ruling last month, US District Judge Loretta Preska ruled that the trove of documents could be released and the names unsealed in full after 1 January.

While the federal judge ordered the names of several Epstein victims to remain anonymous, she said that there was no legal justification to keep the names of Epstein’s associates redacted as “John and Jane Does”.

This has now paved the way for several famous figures to find themselves tied to the notorious disgraced financier.

Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges in 2019.

Maxwell was convicted of child sex trafficking in 2021 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.