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More than 4,000 pages of Epstein files have been released. These questions remain unanswered

 (AP)
(AP)

The highly anticipated release of a trove of documents relating to disgraced financier and convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein concluded with a fifth and final batch of filings unsealed on Tuesday.

The release of the documents, which began on 4 January, is the culmination of a long-standing legal plead by the Miami Herald for every bit of information contained in the now-settled litigation between Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre and Ghislaine Maxwell to be made available to the public. The Herald’s lawsuit for the release was filed in 2018, but it wasn’t until nearly five years later that several — but still not all — unredacted excerpts saw the light of day.

There was expectation that the release, ordered by Judge Loretta Preska in December, would shut withstanding questions about the role that prominent figures tied to Epstein played, if any, in his sex trafficking ring — after he leveraged his power for years to conceal the depravities he participated in, and faced a rather tepid prosecution by Florida officials in 2008.

Although Judge Preska had warned that some of the names were absent parties, victims, or had little to do with Epstein (sometimes merely appearing in the unsealed dockets due to his habit of excessive name-dropping), there were expectations of a “client list,” the existence of which is not substantiated by evidence released so far by federal or state officials.

In reality, very few new details, albeit disturbing, and names were buried in legal jargon, previously released motions and dead-end depositions. Epstein, for instance, invoked his Fifth Amendment right more than a thousand times, while Maxwell refused to give a straight answer when asked if she had ever seen Epstein in the presence of minors.

Yet, the unsealed filings also represent dogged efforts by journalists and victims for transparency and their years-long fight to hold accountable a figure whose money and power made him seem untouchable before his 2019 arrest.

These are the most important questions that remain unanswered:

Did Epstein keep tapes of high-profile figures having sex?

In emails sent by Epstein victim Sarah Ransome – sections of which were included as exhibits in one of the filings unsealed on 8 January – she said that an unnamed friend “had sexual intercourse with former US President Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew and Virgin group magnate Richard Branson” and that these encounters had been filmed by Epstein and that she herself had later seen the sex tapes.

All three strongly deny the allegations against them.

A Virgin Group spokesperson referred The Independent to the New Yorker’s article, adding: “We can confirm that Sarah Ransome’s claims are baseless and unfounded.”

“We categorically reject all allegations made by Sarah Ransome. In 2016, Ms Ransome retracted her claims and then in 2019 after settling her claims with Epstein and Maxwell, she also admitted to The New Yorker that the ‘tapes’ had been ‘invented’. The allegations are baseless and unfounded,” the statement read.

“The actions of Jeffrey Epstein were abhorrent and we support the right to justice for the many victims impacted by his abuse.”

The unsealed extracts were included along with a letter sent by attorneys representing Alan Dershowitz in 2017, seeking to undermine Ms Ransome’s credibility.

In a New Yorker article released two years later in 2019, Ms Ransome admitted that “she had invented the tapes to draw attention to Epstein’s behaviour, and to make him believe that she had ‘evidence that would come out if he harmed me’”.

Ms Ransome, who delivered a victim impact statement at Ghislaine Maxwell’s sentencing for sex-trafficking charges, has since doubled down on her allegations during a media appearance on 9 January.

Ms Ransome said it is “no secret” that the alleged tapes were made, but she did not elaborate this time on who was in the tapes.

“There are videos that exist. The people that know they exist I’m sure are very frightened of them being released,” she told Good Morning Britain.

Was anyone else involved?

Ahead of the unsealing, social media had been fascinated with the possibility that some of the rich and powerful men in Epstein’s social circle were also involved in the abuse. Being identified through the recently unsealed court documents does not mean that the individual was involved in or aware of any wrongdoing by Epstein.

New allegations emerged against Mr Branson, and former Victoria Secret’s CEO Les Wexner, who Ms Giuffre alleged she was trafficked to during a 2016 depositions. Mr Wexner has previously denied any involvement in Epstein’s sex trafficking ring.

“Mr Wexner was unaware of, and was never a participant in, any of the abhorrent behavior engaged in by Epstein against Epstein’s victims ... Mr Wexner ha[s] never met Ms Guiffre, and ... any claims to the contrary were not true,” a spokesperson told Business Insider.

Most of the figures alleged of taking part in crimes had already been named in previously released court dockets.

Ms Giuffre said she was trafficked to a prince and a former prime minister but declined to name them out of fears of retaliation, she said. Other names that have been linked to the same allegations are the late New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former senator George Mitchel, AI pioneer Marvin Minsky, Tom Pritzker, Glenn Dubin, and Prince Andrew.

Mr Dershowitz previously denied allegations in 2015 that he had sex with an underage girl. Mr Dershowitz has again strongly denied those allegations in recent days.

A spokesperson for Senator Mitchell referred The Independent to a previous statement in which he categorically denied any wrongdoing, and pointed out that no new allegations have emerged regarding Senator Mitchell in the filings recently unsealed.

A representative for Mr Pritzker also said that he first rejected Ms Giuffre’s allegations in 2019 and “continues to vehemently deny” them.

A spokesperson for Mr Dubin told The Independent in a statement: “The Dubins strongly deny these allegations, as we first said in 2019 when these unsubstantiated statements first surfaced as part of this same civil court proceeding.”

The Duke of York has also strongly denied Ms Giuffre’s allegations in the past.

The names of two people who Ms Giuffre alleged she was trafficked to, one of them a politician, remain redacted.

Who are Does 107 and 110?

A request by The Miami Herald for a master list of all the J Does in the case to be released, seconded by Alan Dershowitz, was denied last week by Judge Preska. The names of 10 Jane Does mentioned in the filings will remain under seal because their right to privacy as victims outweighed the public’s right to know.

A J Doe, 107, has until 22 January to submit proof to the court that the release of their name will put them at risk of physical harm.

Meanwhile, a request by a second J Doe, 110, to keep their name under seal is currently being reviewed by the court.

Was there ever a client list?

If Epstein kept a physical list of the men who paid him to have sex with young women, it has never come up in legal filings.

Items seized by the Palm Beach Police Department during their initial investigation in 2005-06 included phone messages left for Epstein, and grocery lists, as recently unsealed documents show, but there is no mention of a compiled list of alleged clients.

In 2015, Gawker published Epstein’s “Little Black Book,” which appeared to be a directory with hundreds of celebrity names. According to a 2009 article in The New York Times, Epstein’s house manager Alfredo Rodriguez tried to sell the book before it was published.

However, there was no indication that the names listed in the book were clients of Epstein, and some of those listed have contested they never even met Epstein.