A new report claimed convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein thought he had a hold over Bill Gates and tried to indirectly shake down the Microsoft co-founder for an investment in one of Epstein’s projects.
The report in The Wall Street Journal alleged that Gates had an affair with a Russian bridge player named Mila Antonova and that Epstein hinted at the affair in 2017 while trying to get Gates to invest in a fund he was trying to establish at the time. The Journal said it was told the tale by “people familiar with the matter.”
Epstein was later arrested in 2019 on sex trafficking charges and died in his jail cell while awaiting trial. His death was labeled a suicide.
Antonova declined to comment about Gates.
She said she met Epstein but did not know anything about his activities.
“I had no idea that he was a criminal or had any ulterior motive. I just thought he was a successful businessman and wanted to help,” she said, adding “I am disgusted with Epstein and what he did.”
A representative of Gates issued a statement in response to the Journal’s allegations.
“Mr. Gates met with Epstein solely for philanthropic purposes. Having failed repeatedly to draw Mr. Gates beyond these matters, Epstein tried unsuccessfully to leverage a past relationship to threaten Mr. Gates,” the representative said.
The Journal reported that in 2010, Antonova talked about playing against Gates during a bridge tournament, saying, “I didn’t beat him, but I tried to kick him with my leg.”
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In the course of trying to start an online business to teach people to play bridge, Gates adviser Boris Nikolic introduced Antonova to Epstein, the Journal said.
“I deeply regret that I ever met Epstein. His crimes were despicable. I never saw anything like his illegal behavior. My heart goes out to his victims and their families,” he said.
Antonova and Nikolic met Epstein in November 2013. She was seeking $500,000, but Epstein did not invest. The next year, the Journal reported, she briefly stayed at an apartment Epstein owned.
“I didn’t interact with him or with anyone else while there,” she said.
After the bridge idea failed, she wanted to go to school to be a software programmer. Epstein paid the bill.
“Epstein agreed to pay, and he paid directly to the school. Nothing was exchanged. I don’t know why he did that. When I asked, he said something like, he was wealthy and wanted to help people when he could,” she said.
At the time, Epstein was pitching a fund for charity, calling for an investment of $100 million per partner. He acted as though he and Gates were partners, which the Gates representative said was not so.
“In essence this [fund] will allow Bill to have access to higher quality people, investment, allocation, governance without upsetting either his marriage or the [sensitivities] of the current foundation employees,” Epstein wrote two JP Morgan executives on Aug. 16, 2011, adding the next day, “Bill is terribly frustrated. He [would]! like to boost some of the things that are working without taking away from [those] that are not.”
Citing “people familiar with the matter,” the Journal said Epstein got in touch with Gates asking to be reimbused for Antonova’s school costs.
“The sum was immaterial for the two men, and the tone of the message was that Epstein knew about the affair and could expose it,” the unnamed sources told the Journal reported.
The representative for Gates said he never paid.
Gates has insisted his contacts with Epstein were philanthropic and superficial.
“I will say for the over a hundredth time, yeah, I shouldn’t have had dinners with him,” Gates said when interviewed by ABC News Australia.
WATCH: @JudyWoodruff asks Bill Gates about his meetings with Jeffrey Epstein a decade ago, after Epstein had already been convicted of sex crimes.
“Those meetings were a mistake,” Gates says. “They didn’t result in what he purported and I cut them off.” pic.twitter.com/7gg9osnzpu
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) September 21, 2021
“You know, I had dinners with him. I regret doing that,” Gates said. “He had relationships with people he said, you know, [who] would give to global health, which is an interest I have. … Not nearly enough philanthropy goes in that direction.”
“Those meetings were a mistake,” he added. “They didn’t result in what he purported, and I cut them off. You know, that goes back a long time ago now. There’s — so there’s nothing new on that.”