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Bill Gates had a closer relationship with Jeffrey Epstein than he admitted, The New York Times reports

Epstein was involved with Gates personally and with his namesake foundation

Photo by Ryan Manning / The Verge

Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and chairman of its board until 2014, was among the powerful men who spent a meaningful amount of time with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, according to reporting from The New York Times. Employees of Gates’ namesake foundation reportedly also met with Epstein, in multiple visits to the disgraced financier’s mansion.

Previously, Gates had told The Wall Street Journal that he didn’t have a “business relationship or friendship” with Epstein. “I met him,” Gates told the Journal on September 10th. “I didn’t have any business relationship or friendship with him. I didn’t go to New Mexico or Florida or Palm Beach or any of that. There were people around him who were saying, hey, if you want to raise money for global health and get more philanthropy, he knows a lot of rich people.”

In The New York Times article, a spokeswoman for Gates declined to say how many times the pair had met. The paper’s reporting shows that Gates met with Epstein “numerous times,” including at least three times at Epstein’s townhouse. “His lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing although it would not work for me,” Gates wrote in a 2011 email to colleagues. His spokeswoman says he was “referring only to the unique décor of the Epstein residence.”

“Bill Gates regrets ever meeting with Epstein and recognizes it was an error in judgment to do so,” his spokeswoman told The New York Times. “Gates recognizes that entertaining Epstein’s ideas related to philanthropy gave Epstein an undeserved platform that was at odds with Gates’s personal values and the values of his foundation.”

The Gates Foundation has committed $1 billion to gender equality. Melinda Gates, Bill’s wife and co-chair of The Gates Foundation, has said $1 billion is “only a small fraction of what’s necessary.” The foundation has often touted its commitments to women and girls.

In 2011, Gates instructed a team to meet Epstein at his townhouse to discuss philanthropic fundraising, The New York Times reports. Epstein told the people there that his conviction for soliciting prostitution from an underage girl was no worse than “stealing a bagel,” according to two people who were there.

The two remained in contact, and at one point in 2013, Gates flew on Epstein’s jet from New Jersey to Palm Beach, Florida, according to a flight manifest. Gates’ spokeswoman claims Gates, who owns his own private jet, didn’t know it was Epstein’s plane. Though the relationship between Gates and Epstein apparently cooled off after 2014, the Gates Foundation remained in contact with Epstein through 2017.

According to today’s reporting, two members of Gates’ inner circle served as intermediaries between Gates and Epstein. One, Melanie Walker, met Epstein after she graduated from college in 1992; she moved to New York, where she stayed in a building owned by Epstein. She also worked for Epstein in 1998 as a science advisor, after graduating from medical school. She joined the Gates Foundation in 2006.

That was where she met Boris Nikolic, who was the Gates Foundation’s science advisor. She introduced him to Epstein. Nikolic, who now runs a venture capital firm, was named as a fallback executor to Epstein’s will. (He has declined to do so in court proceedings.) Gates is an investor in Nikolic’s fund. According to The New York Times, Nikolic says: “I deeply regret ever meeting Mr. Epstein.”