A proposed victims’ compensation fund set up by the estate of the late Jeffrey Epstein became the subject of controversy at a hearing held last week in Superior Court. Lawyers representing Epstein, a convicted pedophile, expressed displeasure at actions taken by V.I. Attorney General Denise George, according to a report published in the Miami Herald.
Epstein, 66, died on Aug. 10, 2019 in a Manhattan detention center of an apparent suicide, following his arrest on sex trafficking charges. Last week, the V.I. attorney general placed a lien on his estate, with an estimated value of $577 million.
The action arose from a motion to intervene in the probate proceedings. At a Feb. 4 hearing, Superior Court Magistrate Carolyn Hermon-Purcell approved a limited solution, allowing fund administrators to access enough from the estate to cover basic bills.
According to a Feb. 1 statement released by the Justice Department, George is concerned that the victims’ compensation fund does not meet requirements set by Virgin Islands law.
“As laid out in that legal filing, the government alleges that the current Epstein Estate executors have set certain parameters for the proposed fund which are inconsistent with the laws of the Virgin Islands and wholly inadequate to effectively protect the rights of the victims who seek compensation and those who might come forward in the future,” George said.
“My duty is to insist on a fair, independent and lawful process for the women who have been able, with counsel, to assert their claims, not only against the Epstein Estate but against other perpetrators who may be identified,” the attorney general said.
According to some victims’ accusations, over the course of 30 years Epstein sexually abused hundreds of young women and girls as young as 12. Through prosecutions and investigative reports, the abuse was documented in parts of the U.S. and Europe where Epstein had property.
Most recently, the allegations of sex trafficking taking place in the Virgin Islands were spelled out by George at a Jan. 15 news conference held on St. Thomas. The attorney general also announced the filing of a civil lawsuit against Epstein’s estate.
The lawsuit seeks to have Epstein’s two private islands – Great St. James and Little St. James – turned over to the V.I. government, as well as an undetermined monetary amount. No court proceedings connected the lawsuit have taken place yet.
Attempts to learn further details about the proposed compensation fund through attorney William Blum from the St. Thomas law firm representing Epstein’s estate were unsuccessful. A second local legal counsel, Russell Pate, was asked to withdraw from the probate case on Feb. 4 by the Justice Department, according to a clerk in Pate’s office.
At the end of the four-hour hearing, Hermon-Percell asked George and the lawyers representing the estate to meet and resolve their differences. The magistrate also told Epstein’s lawyers she wants to know more about the costs associated with setting up and running the compensation fund.
A clerk in the office of the magistrate’s court at Barbel Plaza said a ruling is expected soon. Parties for the estate, Justice and about a dozen of Epstein’s sex abuse victims who have already come forward have seven days, from the date of the hearing, to submit comments about the compensation fund prior to the ruling.