Jeffrey Epstein transferred $578 million to trust days before suicide

Bewildered 11th-hour executor says he has 'no intent' to serve for the Estate

Aug 20, 2019 @ 10:48 am

By Bloomberg News

Jeffrey Epstein wrote a will two days before his suicide that said he had $578 million in assets but placed them in a trust, out of public view.

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Mr. Epstein, who died Aug. 10 in a federal jail cell in Manhattan, designated Darren K. Indyke and Richard D. Kahn to be appointed as the executors, according to a copy of the will published Monday by the New York Post. It was filed in the U.S. Virgin Islands and couldn't immediately be confirmed with the courts there.

All of his assets were transferred to the trust as of Aug. 8, two days before he died, assuring that details about how the proceeds will be distributed remains private.

Mr. Indyke had served as an attorney for Mr. Epstein, the financier who was indicted on charges of conspiracy and trafficking, accused of sexually abusing dozens of girls. Mr. Epstein's estate is expected to face many lawsuits by women who claim he abused them when they were children. The trust agreement could complicate efforts by creditors and accusers to recover funds.

Mr. Epstein's next of kin was listed as his brother, Mark Epstein. Both Mr. Indyke and Mr. Kahn are "investigating potential debts and claims of the Estate and at this time they are unknown," according to the court petition for their appointment.

Prosecutors in Manhattan filed Monday to close the case against Mr. Epstein, while reiterating that they would continue to investigate others involved in his alleged crimes. On Aug. 16, the medical examiner ruled his death a suicide.

11th-Hour Executor Says He Won't Serve for Estate

Jeffrey Epstein had very few people he could turn to in his final days. When he needed a backup to handle his estate, he named a little-known biotech venture capitalist named Boris Nikolic in his will. But apparently without Mr. Nikolic's knowledge.

Mr. Nikolic said he was "shocked" after hearing from Bloomberg News of his inclusion in Mr. Epstein's will. "I was not consulted in these matters and I have no intent to fulfill these duties, whatsoever," according to a statement provided by his spokeswoman.

A former science adviser to Bill Gates, Mr. Nikolic was part of a circle of scientists whom Mr. Epstein cultivated in recent years, especially in biotechnology. He was an immunologist who did his post-doctoral work at Harvard, moving in a well-connected social and academic world that Mr. Epstein coveted as a wealth manager.

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Mr. Epstein transferred his assets, valued at $578 million, to a trust just two days before he hanged himself alone in his cell as guards reportedly slept. The transfer obscures details about where his money will go and may make it harder for his alleged victims to recover potential damages. Mr. Nikolic is named a "successor executor," meaning he would take control of Mr. Epstein's estate if the named executors, Darren K. Indyke and Richard D. Kahn, can't fulfill their roles.

Mr. Epstein was a convicted pedophile who was arrested last month after his private jet arrived in New Jersey on a return from Paris and charged with sex trafficking teenage girls. After that, many of his known associates distanced themselves from him in public statements.

Mr. Nickolic is a new name on a long roster of Mr. Epstein associates. Over the years, Mr. Epstein surrounded himself with celebrities, business executives and politicians -- including Ehud Barak of Israel and former U.S. President Bill Clinton -- while cultivating the image of a moneyed philanthropist.

Not much is known about Mr. Epstein and Mr. Nikolic's relationship and Mr. Nikolic said they had no business ties and Mr. Epstein didn't invest in his funds. But both men were clients of the private bank at JPMorgan Chase & Co. As far back as the 1990s, Mr. Epstein was known within the bank as a "center of influence," according to several people familiar with his status. That referred to his ability to help bankers attract lucrative new clients.

Mr. Nikolic, 49, would have been such a prospect. After leaving Gates in 2014, he funded more than a dozen firms in gene editing and other health technologies. A prospectus for a successful public offering of one of those gene companies, Editas Medicine Inc., said he controlled a stake worth $42 million. Mr. Nikolic waxed enthusiastic about Mr. Epstein's financial advice in discussions with private bankers leading up to the Editas offering, according to one person familiar with the matter. JPMorgan, which didn't immediately respond to requests for comment, was co-underwriter on the deal.

Mr. Nikolic was part of a broad network that overlapped with Mr. Epstein's, said his spokeswoman, Carin Canale-Theakston.

Mr. Epstein's enthusiasm for scientific endeavors and high-profile researchers has been well-documented. He was hosted at Harvard as recently as 2014 by George Church, a biologist who oversees the Harvard Human Genome Project, according to online calendars. Epstein provided funding to the project.

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Mr. Church founded eGenesis, to develop synthetic organs, as well as Editas. Both firms received early investments from Biomatics Capital, where Mr. Nikolic is one of two managing directors. Biomatics, which is based in Boston and Seattle, is run by several former staffers from the Gates Foundation and Gates Ventures.

Mr. Church, who didn't respond to requests for comment, offered a public apology this month for "poor awareness and judgment" in dealing with Epstein. A Gates spokeswoman, Bridgitt Arnold, said that Mr. Epstein didn't provide any services to Mr. Gates.

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