US Virgin Islands subpoenas four top businessmen in Epstein banking inquiry

<span>Photograph: Gianfranco Gaglione/AP</span>
Photograph: Gianfranco Gaglione/AP

A US Virgin Islands investigations into the sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s ties to an American bank issued subpoenas to four wealthy business leaders on Friday, extending its reach into the highest echelons of tech, hospitality and finance.

The subpoenas issued to the Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Hyatt Hotels chairperson Thomas Pritzker, American-Canadian businessman Mortimer Zuckerman and former CAA talent agency chairperson Michael Ovitz are crafted to gather more information about Epstein’s relationship with JPMorgan Chase, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Related: Barclays says Epstein allegations against ex-boss Jes Staley ‘serious and new’

The Virgin Islands’ lawsuit against JP Morgan, the world’s largest bank in terms of assets, alleges that the institution “facilitated and concealed wire and cash transactions that raised suspicion of – and were in fact part of – a criminal enterprise whose currency was the sexual servitude of dozens of women and girls in and beyond the Virgin Islands”.

“Human trafficking was the principal business of the accounts Epstein maintained at JP Morgan,” it said.

Epstein was a client of the bank from 1998 until 2013, five years after he pleaded guilty in a Florida state court to procuring a child for prostitution and of soliciting a prostitute.

While it is not clear why the four businessmen have been asked for material, the Virgin Islands investigation is casting a wide net for information. JP Morgan has said it did not know about Epstein’s alleged crimes and cannot be held liable.

The disgraced financier, who died of an apparent suicide in 2019 while in federal custody, owned two private islands – Little Saint James, or “Epstein Island”, and Great Saint James – in the American territory, and authorities there have secured a $105m settlement from his estate.

The demand for any communications and documents related to the bank and Epstein from four of the wealthiest people in the US comes days after it was reported that Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan’s chairperson and chief executive, is expected to be deposed in the case, though his lawyers have argued he had no involvement in Epstein’s accounts.

The Virgin Islands lawsuit – which was filed by an unidentified woman – focuses on Jes Staley, a banker who ran JP Morgan’s private bank and later moved to become chief executive of the UK bank Barclays.

The lawsuit claims Staley had knowledge of Epstein’s criminal activities. JP Morgan has also sued Staley, arguing he should be held liable for any damages stemming from the Virgin Islands claim that Staley “may have been involved in Epstein’s sex-trafficking operation”.

Emails produced as part of the Virgin Islands lawsuit showed Staley apparently discussing with Epstein the Disney characters Snow White and Beauty and the Beast – it is not clear if these may have been code names. “That was fun. Say hi to Snow White,” Staley emailed Epstein in July 2010, court documents show.