A lawsuit filed by prosecutors in the Virgin Islands says multimillionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein used two private islands in the US territory to engage in a nearly two-decade conspiracy to traffic and abuse girls.
At one point, the suit filed Wednesday alleges, Epstein and associates organised a search party to catch a 15-year-old victim trying to swim away, and kept her passport to keep her captive.
The lawsuit seeks to confiscate hundreds of millions of dollars from Epstein’s estate in the Virgin Islands, including private islands Little St James and Great St James, which the suit values at 86 million dollars (£66 million).
“The complaint speaks for itself and lays out allegations of a pattern and practice of human trafficking, sexual abuse and forced labour of young women and female children as young as 13 years old,” Virgin Islands attorney general Denise George told reporters Wednesday.
The lawsuit alleges that even after Epstein’s August suicide in federal detention in New York, his associates continued to conspire to prevent detection of criminal wrongdoing and to prevent accountability.
“These conspiratorial acts are ongoing,” the lawsuit says.
The trust controlling 577 million dollar (£442 million) estate is based in the Virgin Islands.
From 2001 to 2018, Epstein and associates flew girls from other countries to the Virgin Islands, then moved them by boat and helicopter to Epstein’s property on Little St James.
Epstein bought the neighbouring island to protect his illegal activity from being seen, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit says the girls were between 12 and 17, although Ms George said the youngest were 13.
Many were lured with the promise of modelling opportunities, the lawsuit says. Epstein and his associates kept a computerised list of underage girls in or close to the Virgin Islands, the suit says.
Although he was required to register as a sex offender in the Virgin Islands after pleading guilty in a Florida case, Epstein successfully turned away Virgin Islands officials and US marshals from Little St James, saying its dock was his front door.
He arranged to meet the law enforcement officials at his office on the island of St Thomas, the lawsuit says.
Along with the 15-year-old girl who tried to swim away, the lawsuit describes a victim who was hired to provide massages, then forced to perform sex acts on Little St James.
She attempted to escape but was caught by a search party and threatened with physical restraint and other harm if she did not co-operate, the lawsuit says.
“The conduct of Jeffrey Epstein and his associates shocks the conscience and betrays the deepest principles and laws of the US Virgin Islands,” Ms George said.
“The Virgin Islands is not, and will not be, a safe haven for human trafficking or sexual exploitation.”