In this four-part series, “The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail,” MintPress has revealed that Epstein’s activities — a sexual blackmail operation involving minors and connected to intelligence agencies — was one of many such operations that have taken place for decades, developing from the nexus forged between the CIA, organized crime and Israeli intelligence shortly after World War II.
As Part II of this series revealed, these sexual blackmail operations proliferated during the Iran-Contra affair, which involved this same dark alliance between U.S./Israeli intelligence and organized crime. Though this series has thus far largely focused on the ties of Republican officials to those operations and associated crimes, the final installment of this series will focus on Democratic politicians, namely the Clinton family, and their ties to this same network as well as Jeffrey Epstein.
The Clintons’ own involvement in Iran-Contra revolved around the covert activities at Arkansas’ Mena Airport, which involved the CIA front company Southern Air Transport and occurred while Clinton was governor. Just a few years into the Clinton presidential administration, Leslie Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein would play a major role in Southern Air Transport’s relocation to Columbus, Ohio, leading to concerns among top Ohio officials that both men were not only working with the CIA, but that Wexner’s company, The Limited, sought to use the CIA-linked airline for smuggling.
During that same period of time, Epstein had already forged close ties to important Clinton White House officials and prominent Clinton donors like Lynn Forester de Rothschild and made several personal visits to the official presidential residence.
Some of these ties appear related to Epstein’s shady financial activities, particularly involving currency markets and offshore tax havens — activities he began to perfect while working for prominent Iran-Contra figures in the early 1980s, several of whom were tied to the CIA-linked bank Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and had known relationships with Israeli intelligence, namely the Mossad. The nature of Epstein’s work for these individuals and other evidence strongly suggests that Epstein himself had a relationship with BCCI after leaving Bear Stearns and prior to the bank’s collapse in 1991.
Of particular importance are Epstein’s relationship to the Clinton Foundation and the alleged role of Epstein’s Virgin Islands-based hedge fund and the Clinton Foundation in money laundering activity, a relationship still under investigation by MintPress.
It is this tale of intrigue that fully reveals the extent to which this decades-old alliance between organized crime, the CIA, and Israeli intelligence has corrupted and influenced politicians of both political parties, both through the use of sexual blackmail and through other means of coercion.
Far from being the work of a single intelligence agency or a single country, the power structure revealed by this network connected to Epstein is nothing less than a criminal enterprise that transcends nationality and is willing to use and abuse children in the pursuit of ever more power, wealth and control. Existing for decades and willing to use any means necessary to cover its tracks, this criminal racket has become so integrated into the levers of power, in the United States and well beyond, that it is truly too big to fail.
Iran Contra, Mena Airport and the Clintons
When one thinks back to the now-famous Iran-Contra scandal, names like Ronald Reagan, Oliver North and Barry Seal comes to mind, but former President Bill Clinton also played an outsized role in the scandal — using his home state of Arkansas, where he was then serving as governor, as a sort of rallying point for the CIA’s U.S.-side of the Central American operation.
In fact, during Clinton’s reign as governor a small town called Mena, nestled in the Ozark Mountains west of Arkansas’ capital Little Rock, would be propelled into the national spotlight as a hub for drug and arms smuggling and the training of CIA-backed far-right militias.
Under the close watch of the CIA, then led by William Casey, the Mena Intermountain Regional Airport was used to stockpile and deliver arms and ammunition to the Nicaraguan Contras. The arms were sometimes exchanged for cocaine from South American cartels, which would then be sent back to Mena and used to fund the covert CIA operation.
Though efforts have been made to dismiss Clinton’s role in the scandal, his direct intervention in the Contras’ attempts to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua suggests Clinton had some sort of personal stake in the efforts and was unlikely aloof to the major smuggling operation taking place in his state while he had been governor. In fact, while governor, Clinton split with many other state governments in sending a contingency of the Arkansas National Guard to Honduras to train the Nicaraguan Contras on how to overthrow their Sandinista government. Clinton would also discuss his first-hand knowledge of the operation with now-Trump administration Attorney General William Barr.
Much of this channeling of both weapons and drugs was carried out by notorious drug smuggler and alleged CIA/DEA operative Barry Seal. According to the book Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair:
A federal investigation aided by the Arkansas State Police established that Barry Seal, a drug dealer working for the Medellin cartel as well as with the C.I.A. and the D.E.A., had his planes retrofitted at Mena for drug drops, trained pilots there and laundered his profits partly through financial institutions in Arkansas. Seal, at this time was in close contact with [Oliver] North, who acknowledged the relationship in his memoir. These were the years in which North was constructing his covert supply lines for the contras.”
Seal was known to use aircraft that belonged to the company Southern Air Transport and he also employed flight crews that worked for that same company. Southern Air Transport, formerly Air America, was once directly owned by the CIA and today is remembered for being a CIA front during Iran-Contra. Less known is the relationship between the CIA-linked airline and Leslie Wexner and his then-close associate Jeffrey Epstein, which will be discussed in detail later in this report.
Seal seemed to always operate with much less than six degrees of separation from Clinton while the latter served as governor. In his 1999 confessional expose, Cross-fire: Witness in the Clinton Investigation, former Arkansas policeman turned personal driver and security guard for Bill Clinton, L.D. Brown, recounts how Clinton encouraged him to seek out a post at the CIA. Clinton allegedly went so far as to edit the essay Brown wrote for this employment application. The essay topic was drug smuggling in Central America. Upon receiving his application, the CIA put Brown in touch with none other than Barry Seal. Seal would later be gunned down in 1986 while serving six-months probation for drug-smuggling charges.
Seal was not the only affiliate of Oliver North running a Contra-connected operation in Arkansas. Terry Reed, who had worked for North since 1983, claimed to have been put in touch with Seal by North and established a base just 10 miles north of Mena — in Nella, Arkansas — where “Nicaraguan Contras and other recruits from Latin American were trained in resupply missions, night landings, precision paradrops and similar maneuvers,“ according to Cockburn and St. Clair. Reed further asserted that drug money was being laundered through Arkansas financial institutions.
After Clinton’s half-brother Roger was busted for cocaine smuggling (Clinton would later pardon him while president) the CIA sought to move Contra operations out of Arkansas, hoping to put a damper on the increasingly public and sloppy Arkansas-based operation. According to Terry Reed in his book Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA, co-written with John Cummings, a hushed meeting was held in a bunker at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas. During the meeting, William Barr, who represented himself as the emissary of then-CIA Director Bill Casey told Clinton:
The deal we made was to launder our money through your bond business but what we didn’t plan on was you and your n****r here start taking yourselves seriously and purposely shrinking our laundry.”
Bar chastised Clinton for his sloppy handling of the delicate operation and his half-brother’s very public fall from grace. He would later tell Clinton, according to Reed,
Bill, you are Mr. Casey’s fair-haired boy … You and your state have been our greatest asset. Mr. Casey wanted me to pass on to you that unless you fuck up and do something stupid, you’re No. 1 on the short list for a shot at the job that you’ve always wanted. You and guys like you are the fathers of the new government. We are the new covenant.”
Attempts to investigate Clinton’s role in the Mena operations and more broadly in the Iran-Contra affair were allegedly axed by Clinton’s own confidantes, who consistently denied he played a role in the scandal. According to the Wall Street Journal, former IRS investigator William Duncan teamed with Arkansas State Police Investigator Russell Welch in what became a decade-long battle to bring the matter to light. In fact, of the nine separate state and federal probes into the affair, all failed.
Duncan would later say of the investigations, “[They] were interfered with and covered up, and the justice system was subverted,” and a 1992 memo from Duncan to high-ranking members of the attorney general’s staff notes that Duncan was instructed “to remove all files concerning the Mena investigation from the attorney general’s office.” The attorney general, serving under George H. W. Bush, at that time was William Barr, who is currently attorney general under Trump.
The Bank of Crooks and Criminals International
Another Clinton connection to the CIA and the Iran-Contra affair runs through the family’s connection to Arkansas financier Jackson Stephens and the CIA-linked Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which critics nicknamed the “Bank of Crooks and Criminals International.” Stephens was among the richest people in Arkansas and was also a major donor and backer of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He also played a key role in the rise of Walmart.
Jackson Stephens and other members of the Stephens family bankrolled Bill Clinton’s rise to political prominence, contributing large sums of money to both Clinton’s gubernatorial and his later presidential campaigns. In addition, Worthen Bank, which was majority-owned by Stephens, provided Clinton’s first presidential campaign a $3.5 million line of credit. In addition, Stephens’ many businesses were frequently represented by the Rose Law Firm, where Hillary Clinton was a partner.
A redacted FBI report from 1998 describes Stephens as having “lengthy and continuing ties to the Clinton administration and associates” and also discusses allegations that Stephens has been involved in the “illegal handling of campaign contributions to the Democratic National Party.”
BCCI had originally been founded by a group of bankers from Pakistan, though Newsweek later reported that CIA officials appeared to have been involved in the bank’s founding and that BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi had been encouraged by the CIA to found the bank after “the agency realized that an international bank could provide valuable cover for intelligence operations.” CIA documents that later surfaced during congressional hearings on the bank’s activities and related scandals stated that BCCI was directly involved in “money laundering, narco-financing, gunrunning and holding large sums of money for terrorist groups.”
Though BCCI was known for its CIA links, Catherine Austin Fitts — former Assistant Secretary for Housing–Federal Housing Commissioner at HUD during the George H. W. Bush administration, and investment banker with the firms Hamilton Securities Group and Dillon, Read & Co. — believes that those links went well beyond the CIA. Fitts — who was placed on the board of the BCCI subsidiary First American Bank following BCCI’s collapse — told MintPress that, after reading through troves of documents regarding the bank’s activities prior to its implosion, it was clear to her that there was “no way” its clandestine activities were carried on without the full knowledge of the Federal Reserve, specifically the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the White House.
BCCI also played a key role in the Iran-Contra affair and accounts of the bank were used to send payoffs to individuals linked to the scheme. Adnan Khashoggi, a key figure and intermediary in the scandal, used one BCCI account to move more than $20 million related to illegal arms sales and BCCI created fake documentation, including checks signed by Oliver North, allowing the sale to go forward. The bank later, when its activities subsequently came under congressional scrutiny, claimed it had no records of these transactions.
In addition, BCCI appears to have been involved in the sex trafficking of underage girls, including girls that had not yet reached puberty. According to the report entitled “The BCCI Affair,” by then-U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Hank Brown (R-CO), BCCI officials were alleged to have obtained leverage with powerful individuals, including prominent members of the ruling families of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), by providing them with young virgins.
The report (page 70) specifically states:
According to one U.S. investigator with substantial knowledge of BCCI’s activities, some BCCI officials have acknowledged that some of the females provided some members of the Al-Nahyan family [one of the ruling families in the UAE] were young girls who had not yet reached puberty, and in certain cases, were physically injured by the experience. The official said that former BCCI officials had told him that BCCI also provided males to homosexual VIPs.”
BCCI was largely brought into the United States business community through the efforts of Jackson Stephens and Bert Lance, former budget director for Jimmy Carter, who assisted with BCCI’s acquisition of First American Bank. The law firm involved in this effort was Arkansas’ Rose Law Firm and it involved several of the firm’s lawyers, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Webster Hubbell and C.J. Giroir. Also involved in the effort was Clark Clifford, former Secretary of Defense under Lyndon B. Johnson, and Kamal Adham, former director general of Saudi intelligence.
One of the men added to the BCCI board after the acquisition of First American Bank was Robert Keith Gray, whom Newsweek described as often having “boasted of his close relationship with the CIA’s William Casey; Gray used to say that before taking on a foreign client, he would clear it with Casey.” As was discussed in Part II of this series, Gray was also an expert in homosexual blackmail operations for the CIA and was reported to have collaborated with Roy Cohn in those activities. Some of Gray’s clients at the powerful PR firm he led, Hill & Knowlton, included BCCI clients and Mossad-linked individuals, such as Adnan Khashoggi and Marc Rich.
While the Rose Law Firm was assisting BCCI’s entrance into the American financial system, it also represented the Stephens-owned financial services company, Stephens Inc., as well as the data-processing company Systematics Inc., which Stephens acquired in the late 1960s. According to James Norman in his book The Oil Card: Global Economic Warfare in the 21st Century, Systematics was “a primary vehicle or front company for the National Security Agency in the 1980s and early 1990s to market and implant bugged software in the world’s major money-center banks and clearinghouses as part of the Reagan/Bush ‘follow the money’ effort to break the Soviets.”
The late journalist Michael Ruppert asserted that this “bugged software” was none other than the Promis software, which both U.S. and Israeli intelligence had bugged in order to spy on intelligence and which had been marketed in part by Robert Maxwell, father of Jeffrey Epstein’s madam, Ghislaine Maxwell. Ruppert cited Systematics as “a primary developer of Promis for financial intelligence use.” Promis had originally been leased by Inslaw Inc., a small software company founded by Bill Hamilton, to the Department of Justice — which later stole it from Inslaw, forcing it to declare bankruptcy.
According to a 1995 document sent on behalf of Inslaw’s founders to then-independent Counsel Ken Starr that asked him to review Inslaw’s case, Systematics had “covertly implanted [software] into the computers of its bank customers” that allowed “allied intelligence agencies surreptitiously to track and monitor the flow of money through the banking system” and had done so at “the behest of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its partner in Israeli intelligence.” Inslaw also stated that the software was used by these same intelligence agencies in the “laundering of money, especially drug profits.”
Systematics also had a subsidiary in Israel that, according to a former Israeli intelligence officer, was operated by contractors for the Mossad and sold software to banks and telecommunications companies. According to Richardson’s letter, that Israeli subsidiary of Systematics also had a Massachusetts-based front company, which was partially owned by a former U.S. intelligence official.
Two partners in the Rose Law Firm who would later serve in the Clinton administration, Vince Foster and Webster Hubbell, acquired significant financial interests in Systematics through ownership in Alltel, which purchased Systematics in the early 1990s. The Hamiltons also provide considerable evidence that Foster’s distress prior to his death in 1993 appears to have been related to concerns about litigation involving Systematics and the on-going litigation over Promis’ theft.
BCCI itself was known to employ the Promis software after its theft by the DOJ; and one of its subsidiaries, First American Bank, also “filtered PROMIS money” — i.e., laundered the money generated from the sale of the stolen Promis software — according to the late journalist Danny Casolaro.
Casolaro had been investigating an international crime syndicate he termed “the Octopus” at the time of his death in 1991. Casolaro believed that this “Octopus” involved powerful individuals in the private and public sectors as well as the criminal underworld and that they were collectively responsible for some of the biggest scandals of the 1980s, including Iran-Contra, BCCI and the theft of the Promis software.
Casolaro had told friends and family that he was close to concluding his investigation and several people close to him had seen documents involving money transfers involving BCCI and the World Bank to people involved in these scandals, such as Earl Brian and Adnan Khashoggi. Casolaro went to Martinsburg, Virginia to meet with some sources to get the final piece of the puzzle and “bring back the head of the Octopus.” Two days after arriving in Martinsburg, Casolaro was found dead in his hotel room and his briefcase full of his research notes and evidence was missing. His death was ruled a suicide.
Many, including Casolaro’s family, do not believe that Casolaro committed suicide. A week before his death, Casolaro told his brother he had been receiving death threats and the manner in which he died, deep slashes in his arms, was not consistent with Casolaro’s well-known squeamishness around even minor amounts of blood. Speculation only grew following the FBI investigation, given that the FBI lied to Congress, pressured its own agents not to question whether it was a suicide and lost 90 percent of its files related to Casolaro’s death — among other glaring inconsistencies.
In a 1994 letter provided to MintPress by Inslaw Inc., Inslaw lawyer Charles Work told then-Assistant Attorney General John Dwyer that one of Inslaw’s confidential sources in government had stated that Casolaro had been injected with a substance that deadened his nerves from the neck down, explaining the apparent lack of struggle and that the substance used had come from the U.S. Army inventory. The person who had arranged Casolaro’s final meeting before his death was a U.S. military intelligence officer named Joseph Cuellar.
The same year that Casolaro died, there were several other suspicious deaths involving people directly connected to the Promis scandal or involved in Casolaro’s investigation of “the Octopus” — including Alan Standorf, one of Casolaro’s sources; Robert Maxwell, father of Ghislaine Maxwell, Mossad operative, and salesman of the bugged Promis software; and John Tower — the former Texas senator who assisted Maxwell in selling the bugged Promis software to the Los Alamos laboratories.
Jeffrey Epstein and “The Dirtiest Bank of All”
While the role Arkansas played in Iran-Contra is one aspect of the scandal that is often overlooked, so to is the key role played by Israeli intelligence-linked arms dealers and smugglers who would later be connected to powerful individuals in the Mega Group and Jeffrey Epstein, such as Marc Rich and Adnan Khashoggi.
One of the key players in the Iran-Contra affair was Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, uncle of the slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. One lesser known fact about Adnan Khashoggi is that, at the time of his Iran-Contra dealings, he was working for the Israeli Mossad, according to former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky.
Ostrovsky, in his #1 New York Times bestseller “By Way of Deception,” notes that Khashoggi had been recruited by the Mossad years before and that his private jet had been fitted in Israel. In relation to Iran-Contra, Ostrovsky claims that it was a $5 million bridge loan that Khashoggi provided that helped to overcome the lack of trust between Israel and Iran during the initial arms deals in the early 1980s, and thus his participation was critical to the success of the scheme.
According to journalist Vicky Ward, Adnan Khashoggi was a client of Jeffrey Epstein’s in the early 1980s, not long after Epstein’s departure from Bear Stearns in 1981. The reason Epstein left the bank remains murky. Though some former Bear Stearns employees claim he was fired, others — including Epstein himself — claimed that he resigned of his own volition.
Ward suggests that Epstein may have left the bank owing to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into insider trading in a case that involved a tender offer placed by the Seagrams corporation for St. Joe Minerals Corp. Seagrams owner Edgar Bronfman, son of Meyer Lansky associate Samuel Bronfman and member of the Mega Group, had tipped off several investors and bankers of the coming tender offer. Epstein resigned from Bear Stearns the day after the SEC opened the case and later claimed he had left the company as a result of a relatively minor “Reg D” violation and rumors that he had an “illicit affair with a secretary.”
Yet, as Ward noted:
The SEC never brought any charges against anyone at Bear Stearns for insider trading in St. Joe, but its questioning seems to indicate that it was skeptical of Epstein’s answers. Some sources have wondered why, if he was such a big producer at Bear Stearns, he would have given it up over a mere $2,500 fine.”
Regardless of the exact reason for Epstein’s sudden departure, it was immediately after he left the bank that “the details [of Epstein’s work history] recede into shadow. A few of the handful of current friends who have known him since the early 1980s recall that he used to tell them he was a “bounty hunter,” recovering lost or stolen money for the government or for very rich people. He has a license to carry a firearm.”
Writing in Salon, a former friend of Epstein’s, Jesse Kornbluth, also stated that Epstein had claimed to be a “bounty hunter” for the rich and powerful:
When we met in 1986, Epstein’s double identity intrigued me — he said he didn’t just manage money for clients with mega-fortunes, he was also a high-level bounty hunter. Sometimes, he told me, he worked for governments to recover money looted by African dictators. Other times those dictators hired him to help them hide their stolen money.” (emphasis added)
One of Epstein’s clients after leaving Bear Stearns, per Ward’s sources, was the CIA/Mossad-linked Khashoggi at the very time that Khashoggi was involved in Iran-Contra, an operation involving both U.S. and Israeli intelligence. British journalist Nigel Rosser reported in January 2001 in the Evening Standard that Epstein had claimed that he was also working for the CIA during this same time period.
Since Epstein’s arrest, records of Rosser’s article have been scrubbed from British newspaper archives, including the Evening Standard’s own. However, MintPress independently confirmed with Bob Fitrakis, whom Rosser had interviewed for the article in question, that the article did allege that Epstein used to claim he worked for the CIA. In addition, other reports from the time period cited excerpts of Rosser’s article, including the reference to Epstein’s past claims of involvement with the CIA.
Specifically, Rosser’s article had included the following passage:
He [Epstein] has a license to carry a concealed weapon, once claimed to have worked for the CIA, although he now denies it – and owns properties all over America. Once he arrived at the London home of a British arms dealer bringing a gift – a New York police-issue pump-action riot gun. ‘God knows how he got it into the country,’ a friend said.”
Though Epstein denied past connections to the CIA at the time Rosser’s article was published, it is worth mentioning that Robert Maxwell — father of Ghislaine Maxwell and long-time Mossad operative — also vehemently denied his now well-documented links to Israeli intelligence until his death. Furthermore, as will be shown later in this article, Epstein and his only known billionaire “client,” Leslie Wexner, would later forge a business relationship with the CIA front company Southern Air Transport and play a major role in the airline’s relocation to Columbus, Ohio in the mid-1990s. During that period, two prominent Ohio officials believed that both Epstein and Wexner were working with the CIA, according to Ohio-based journalist Bob Fitrakis.
Past claims and evidence of Epstein’s involvement with the CIA, coupled with his time as a “shadowy” financial fixer for double-asset Khashoggi, strongly suggest that, whatever Epstein was doing for Khashoggi during this time, it likely involved BCCI. According to “The BCCI Affair” report, Khashoggi “acted as the middleman for five Iranian arms deals for the United States, financing a number of them through BCCI” and “served as the ‘banker’ for arms shipments as the undercover scheme developed.” The report continued:
Khashoggi and [another Iran-Contra arms dealer Manucher] Ghorbanifer performed a central role for the U.S. government in connection with the Iran-Contra affair in operations that involved the direct participation of CIA personnel [and both Khashoggi and Ghorbanifer] banked at BCCI’s offices in Monte Carlo and, for both, BCCI’s services were essential as a means of providing short-term credit for sales from the U.S. through Israel to Iran.”
This connection is even more likely given the fact that Bear Stearns — Epstein’s previous employer right up until he became a financial fixer for Khashoggi and other powerful people — also worked directly with BCCI during this period. Indeed, Bear Stearns served as a broker to BCCI, a fact that remained hidden until a lengthy court battle in the U.K. concluded in 2011 and forced the government’s “Sandstorm Report” about BCCI’s activities to unredact the names of Bear Stearns and other institutions, individuals and countries that had done business with the CIA-linked bank.
Furthermore, there is the additional fact that BCCI trafficked underage girls for sex as a means of obtaining favors from and gaining leverage over powerful individuals, something in which Epstein would later become deeply involved. As was shown in Part II of this series, several individuals who were running either sexual blackmail operations involving minors or child trafficking operations were connected to CIA front companies like BCCI, other organizations connected to the Iran-Contra scandal, and several individuals close to the Reagan White House.
The CIA director at the time, Bill Casey, was a close friend of Roy Cohn, who also ran the sexual blackmail operation involving underage boys out of Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel, described in Part I of this series. According to Cohn’s long-time secretary Christine Seymour, Casey was one of Cohn’s most frequent callers.
Another fact that further suggests that Epstein had connections to BCCI is that Epstein was known to have been close to other arms dealers of the period and BCCI was frequently used specifically for covert arms deals. After the bank’s collapse in 1991, an article in Time magazine entitled “BCCI: The Dirtiest Bank of All” noted the following:
…[T]he CIA may have used B.C.C.I. as more than an undercover banker: U.S. agents collaborated with the black network in several operations, according to a B.C.C.I. black-network “officer” who is now a secret U.S. government witness. Sources have told investigators that B.C.C.I. worked closely with Israel’s spy agencies and other Western intelligence groups as well, especially in arms deals.” (emphasis added)
One of the arms dealers that Epstein apparently knew quite well was the British arms dealer Sir Douglas Leese. Leese was involved in brokering the first of a series of controversial British arms deals that involved Khashoggi, known as the Al Yamamah Deal and allegedly involving bribery of members of the Saudi royal family and top Saudi officials. In addition to Khashoggi, several of those officials and royal family members had deep ties to BCCI.
Later iterations of that arms deal were allegedly brokered with the involvement of Prince Charles of the British royal family, and corruption investigations into Al Yamamah were later shut down by the efforts of Tony Blair as well as Prince Andrew. Leese is said to have spoken of Epstein’s “genius” and lack of morals when he introduced him to Steve Hoffenberg of Tower Financial, and soon after that introduction Hoffenberg hired Epstein.
Two years after BCCI’s fraud-driven collapse, Tower Financial imploded in 1993 in what is still considered to be one of the largest Ponzi schemes in American history. Hoffenberg later asserted in court that Epstein had been intimately involved in Tower’s shady financial practices and had called Epstein the “architect of the scam.” However, by the time Tower Financial had collapsed, Epstein was no longer working for the company. Despite Tower’s testimony and abundant evidence regarding Epstein’s role in the scheme, Epstein’s name was mysteriously dropped from the case.
Given that Epstein allegedly received his “sweetheart deal” in 2008 as a result of having “belonged to intelligence,” Epstein’s activities in the 1980s and early 1990s suggest that his ability to avoid charges in relation to the Tower Financial Ponzi scheme may have been for similar reasons.
Though Hoffenberg claims that he met Epstein through Leese, Epstein himself claimed that he had met the convicted fraudster through John Mitchell, former attorney general under Richard Nixon.
As was noted in Part II of this series, Mitchell was a “friend” of disgraced Washington lobbyist Craig Spence, according to Spence before his fall from grace. Spence, for much of the 1980s, ran a sexual blackmail operation in D.C. involving underage boys and had taken some of those “call boys” on midnight tours of the White House that he said had been arranged by then-National Security Adviser Donald Gregg. Spence, after his trafficking and exploitation of minors was exposed, died under mysterious circumstances. His death was quickly labeled a suicide, not unlike Jeffrey Epstein’s.
With Epstein and Wexner’s Help, “Spook Air” Finds a New Home
While the state of Arkansas became a hub for CIA activity during the Reagan years and the Iran-Contra scandal, another state appeared to take its place in the 1990s — Ohio. Just as Arkansas oligarch Jackson Stephens helped attract the CIA to his home state during Iran-Contra, it was also an Ohio oligarch and his close associate that helped attract the CIA to the Buckeye State. Those men were Leslie Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein, respectively.
In Part III of this series, MintPress detailed Wexner’s alleged ties to organized crime and his links to the still unsolved homicide of Columbus, Ohio lawyer Arthur Shapiro. Shapiro, who was representing Wexner’s company “The Limited” at the time of his death, was set to testify before a grand jury about tax evasion and his involvement with “questionable tax shelters.” Columbus police described the Shapiro murder as “a Mafia ‘hit’” and a suppressed police report implicated Wexner and his business associates as being involved in or benefiting from Shapiro’s death, and as having links to prominent New York-based crime syndicates.
However, Wexner and The Limited also appear to have had a relationship with the CIA. In 1995, Southern Air Transport (SAT) — a well-known front company for the CIA — relocated from Miami, Florida to Columbus, Ohio. First founded in the late 1940s, SAT from 1960 until 1973 was directly owned by the CIA, which sought to use the company as a cover for covert operations. After 1973, the company was placed in private hands, although all of its subsequent owners would have CIA ties, including James Bastian, a former lawyer for the CIA, who owned SAT at the time of its relocation to Ohio.
SAT was intimately involved in the Iran-Contra affair, having been used to funnel weapons and drugs to and from the Nicaraguan Contras under the guise of delivering “humanitarian aid,” while also sending American weapons to Israel that were then sold to Iran in violation of the U.S. arms embargo. In 1986 alone, SAT transported from Texas to Israel 90 tons of TOW anti-tank missiles, which were then sold to Iran by Israel and Mossad-linked intermediaries like Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.
Even though the airline’s CIA links were well known, Leslie Wexner’s company, The Limited, sought to coax SAT to relocate its headquarters from Miami, Florida to Columbus, Ohio, a move that was realized in 1995. When Edmund James, president of James and Donohew Development Services, told the Columbus Dispatch in March 1995 that SAT was relocating to Columbus’ Rickenbacker airfield, he stated that “Southern Air’s new presence at Rickenbacker begins in April with two regularly scheduled 747 cargo flights a week from Hong Kong,” citing SAT President William Langton. “By fall, that could increase to four a week. Negotiations are underway for flights out of Rickenbacker to the Far East…Much of the Hong Kong-to-Rickenbacker cargo will be for The Limited,” Wexner’s clothing company. “This is a big story for central Ohio. It’s huge, actually,” James said at the time.
The day following the press conference, Brian Clancy, working as a cargo analyst with MergeGlobal Inc., told the Journal of Commerce that the reason for SAT’s relocation to Ohio was largely the result of the lucrative Hong Kong-to-Columbus route that SAT would run for Wexner’s company. Clancy specifically stated that the fact that “[The] Limited Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, is based in Columbus … undoubtedly contributed in large part to Southern Air’s decision.”
According to documents obtained by journalist Bob Fitrakis from the Rickenbacker Port Authority, Ohio’s government also tried to sweeten the deal to bring SAT to Columbus in order to please powerful Ohio businessmen like Wexner. Orchestrated by Governor George Voinovich’s then-Chief of Staff Paul Mifsud, the Rickenbacker Port Authority and the Ohio Department of Development created a package of several financial incentives, funded by Ohio taxpayers, to lure the airline to relocate to Ohio. The Journal of Commerce described the “generous package of incentives from the state of Ohio” as “including a 75 percent credit against its corporate tax liability for the next 10 years, a $5 million low-interest loan, and a $400,000 job-training grant.”In 1996, then-SAT spokesman David Sweet had told Fitrakis that the CIA-linked airline had only moved to Columbus because “the deal [put together by the development department] was too good to turn down.”