Investigations

Epstein scandal explodes in Israel as ties to former prime minister under scrutiny

Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest is reverberating in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party are calling for a criminal probe into former prime minister Ehud Barak’s personal and business ties with the accused sex trafficker, Israeli media is reporting.

Barak, 77, served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001. This month he formed a new party to run for prime minister against Netanyahu, who called for new elections in September. Once political allies, Barak and Netanyahu have been sparring on social media, with Netanyahu producing a video raising Barak’s relationship to the multimillionaire New York financier, and Ohio billionaire Les Wexner, who has given money to Barak, the Times of Israel reported.

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Barak was a close friend and business partner with Epstein for years. Now some of those business partnerships are being scrutinized amid questions about Barak’s own source of wealth. The Times reported Saturday that Barak is exploring whether to sever business ties with Epstein, 66, who was charged last week with sex trafficking underage girls.

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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in 2010. Abaca Press/MCT

In 2015, Barak formed a limited partnership company in Israel to invest in a high-tech startup called Reporty, now named Carbyne., which develops video streaming and geolocation software for emergency services, the Times reported. A large part of the investment money was supplied by Epstein.

Barak also received $2.5 million from the Wexner Foundation in 2004 for research, which has never been fully explained, Haaretz reported. Epstein was a member of that foundation.

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