(NEW YORK) — In June 2011, the U.S. Department of State received an urgent request from an American businessman who sought a second U.S passport for impending trips to Europe and multiple African nations.
“I am frequently required on extremely short notice to schedule international trips with itineraries to multiple destinations requiring me to obtain multiple visas at the same time, which is simply not possible on such short notice without a second passport,” the letter said.
The applicant, who identified himself as the president of an international financial consulting firm, said he had business trips scheduled in the coming weeks to France, Sierra Leone, Mali and Gabon.
“Please issue me a second passport so I may have the 3 visas issued for Africa while I am using my current passport in France,” he wrote.
The businessman’s name: Jeffrey Edward Epstein.
Three years earlier, Epstein had pleaded guilty in Florida to solicitation of an underaged girl, a felony that required him to register as a sex offender for life.
The letter is found among several passport applications and renewal forms submitted over three decades by Epstein, whose staggering wealth and proximity to power have long defied ready explanation.
More than 50 pages from Epstein’s files were obtained by ABC News in a public records request to the State Department. The records span from the early 1980s, when Epstein was an unknown bushy-haired broker from Brooklyn, to 2019, when his indictment in New York for alleged sex-trafficking of children made him notorious worldwide.
The documents reveal Epstein’s penchant for reporting lost passports and his intentions to travel to far-flung destinations, including several countries — Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Senegal — that have not appeared in other accounts of Epstein’s travel.
The earliest application is from April 1983 when Epstein sought to replace a lost passport in time for an upcoming trip to London. In barely legible handwriting, then 30-year-old Epstein lists his occupation as “banker” and his address as an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The stapled color photograph depicts Epstein, who in later years favored loose-fitting track suits, in a crisp black suit and glossy tie.
In the mid-1980s, Epstein was a college dropout who taught math at an exclusive Manhattan private school and later worked for five years as a self-described “financial strategist” on Wall Street. After an abrupt exit from Bear Stearns, he claimed to have launched a career as a self-employed investment adviser for the uber-rich.
Epstein twice more in the 1980s reported his U.S. passport lost or stolen; once left behind in a London black taxi, and once stolen “out of [his] jacket pocket” as he dined at a restaurant, according to his explanations in the files.
In an application to replace his passport on Feb. 26, 1985, Epstein reported he was then residing in London. The address he provided, which has not previously been associated with Epstein, is in an area surrounded by foreign embassies.
In his affidavit of loss, Epstein indicated he had a flight booked the next day to Sweden. Less than a week later, former Miss Sweden Eva Andersson was the host of a televised musical contest in the country. Video of the event, unearthed by YouTube user “Green Clown2021,” shows Epstein in the audience, clapping half-heartedly between musical acts. Andersson would later testify, in Ghislaine Maxwell’s criminal trial in 2021, that she and Epstein dated on and off in the 1980’s.
Epstein’s 1993 passport application shows his hair graying and his fortunes improving. His listed address on East 69th in New York City was the former residence of the Iranian ambassador which had been taken over by the State Department before Epstein rented the property. The government later terminated Epstein’s lease after he sublet the townhouse, without permission, and jacked up the rent.
The records obtained by ABC News also contain multiple instances in which Epstein applied for a second passport “in order to avoid conflicting visa stamps” when traveling to Israel and certain Arab states, including Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Epstein had long-standing connections to Ehud Barak, a former prime minister of Israel. Barak publicly acknowledged visiting Epstein “more than ten but much less than a hundred” times, including one visit to Epstein’s private estate in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He told The Daily Beast in 2019 that he had “never attended a party” with Epstein and had never met with him “in the company of women or girls.”
A New York Times columnist reported in 2019 that Epstein had boasted, without evidence, of speaking often with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
“For both safety and business reasons, it is imperative that Mr. Epstein have the necessary flexibility of a second passport,” one of his corporate representatives wrote in 2003.
State Department policies permit certain frequent international travelers to carry a second passport, particularly in cases where a visa stamp from one country might prohibit entry into another.
The issue arose again two years later, when Epstein reported a scheduled trip to Israel and Afghanistan.
As part of a request for an additional passport, Epstein submitted travel itineraries indicating he had booked two first-class trips in the spring of 2005.
The first was from London to Tel Aviv on March 29 that year. Epstein also provided details of a journey that would take him on April 7, 2005, to Istanbul, where he would connect through Baku, Azerbaijan, to Kabul. The records do not indicate whether he actually made the trip. On the day of Epstein’s scheduled departure from Kabul, the late former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made an unannounced visit to the Afghan capital for a joint press conference with President Hamid Karzai. There is no evidence that Rumsfeld and Epstein’s visits were connected.
While Epstein was apparently traveling in southern Asia, police officers in southern Florida were hunting for evidence in trash cans outside his Palm Beach mansion. Three weeks earlier, the parents of a 14-year-old girl had reported to police that their daughter had been molested by a white-haired man who went by the name “Jeff.” The police investigation that followed would turn up dozens of alleged underage minor victims and begin a saga that would ultimately lead to Epstein’s permanent status as a sex offender.
But that designation would have little impact on Epstein’s ability to obtain a U.S. passport or to travel internationally, until Congress passed the “International Megan’s Law” in 2016. That legislation allowed the government to revoke the passports of sex offenders, who must re-apply for a special passport carrying a notice inside that reads, “The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor, and is a covered sex offender,” according to the State Department. It also strengthened a requirement that registered sex offenders provide advance notice of all intended international travel.
Epstein’s files indicate that a passport issued to him in 2016, and valid for ten years, was revoked. A second passport valid until 2020 was also revoked. His final application in the state department files indicates his last US passport was issued in March of 2019.
ABC News has previously obtained records of the United States Marshals Service that show the agency was looking into Epstein’s foreign trips. “Investigation reveals EPSTEIN travels Internationally quite frequently using private planes and may have failed to report all his International travel,” a January 2019 report stated.
Six months later, he was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, after his private Gulfstream Jet touched down from Paris. A federal indictment charged him with conspiracy and child sex-trafficking.
When FBI agents executed a search warrant at Epstein’s New York home later that day, they found a locked safe that contained 48 loose diamonds and $70,000 in cash.
Also recovered were three U.S. passports and one Austrian passport with Epstein’s picture, but with someone else’s name and an address in Saudi Arabia.
Epstein’s defense attorneys, seeking to secure bail for their client, said that two of the US passports were expired. The foreign passport, they claimed, was given to Epstein “by a friend,” and he had never used it to travel. They argued he received it in the 1980s for personal protection when traveling in the Middle East.
“Some Jewish-Americans were informally advised at the time to carry identification bearing a non-Jewish name when traveling internationally in case of hijacking,” his attorney said.
Partly because of that foreign passport and Epstein’s history of international travel, a judge determined Epstein was a flight risk and refused to grant bail. Three weeks later, Epstein was dead. His death was ruled a suicide by hanging.
Following his death, the Marshals service investigation into his travel was dropped.
Thomas Volscho, a contributor to ABC News, is a professor of sociology at City University of New York, Staten Island. He is writing a book about the tactics of wealthy sex-traffickers.
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