Two middle-aged holidaymakers walk into a fashion boutique in one of those exotic millionaire’s playgrounds where the sun always shines and endless palm trees sway in the afternoon breeze.
One is Jeffrey Epstein, a mysterious financier fond of very young girls, many of whom have for years been systematically exploited and sexually abused in his various luxury homes.
The other is Peter Mandelson, the former British Cabinet minister and long-term friend of Epstein’s closest chum Ghislaine Maxwell, who was staying on the luxury resort island of St Barts.
Peter Mandelson shopping with Jeffrey Epstein on December 27, 2005, in St. Barts
His journey through public life has already twice been interrupted by scandals involving stupendously wealthy men.
The year is 2005 and Mandelson is taking time off from his work as the European Union’s Trade Commissioner, for which taxpayers are paying him a salary in excess of £200,000 a year.
Epstein (unbeknownst to the world at this point) is under police investigation for numerous ghastly sex offences. Meanwhile, he is doing what he does best: pursuing a Gatsby-esque friendship with a famous and powerful man.
Cosy trip: Peter Mandelson tries on leather belt in a Caribbean boutique as paedophile Jeffrey Epstein looks on
Guests who have spent time on his nearby private island Little St James, a stunning, 72-acre patch of the U.S. Virgin Islands, have included a virtual Who’s Who of celebrities — from Bill Clinton to Naomi Campbell, Stephen Hawking and, perhaps most notoriously, our very own Prince Andrew. On various trips to Chateau Epstein, they’ve spent days or even weeks sunbathing on his private beaches, swimming in his pools or playing tennis on his personal court.
When things start to feel claustrophobic, Epstein’s guests enjoy still more of the high life, taking one of his yachts or helicopters for island-hopping jaunts where they dine in upscale restaurants, or indulge in a bit of retail therapy in a Caribbean tax haven’s smart if somewhat overpriced shopping mall.
All of which brings us back to Mandelson. He’s known the generous host in these pictures for several years, having previously once visited his Caribbean island for a holiday — when neither Epstein nor any of the girls were there — and, on another occasion, dined with various celebrities at his $77 million New York townhouse, filled with erotic art and lurid photographs of young women.
Both men share a love of flashy designer clobber. To this end, Mandelson, sporting a Patek Philippe watch worth £21,000 (almost two months of his post-tax income) can be seen in a Caribbean boutique trying on a swanky white leather belt.
It’s the perfect accessory to complete his nautical Man From Del Monte-style holiday ensemble, which includes a natty white bracelet, white linen shorts, and blue short-sleeved shirt. Epstein looks on with a sort of proprietorial glee. As well he might. For this man has devoted years to building cosy (and, as a financier, potentially very profitable) relationships with the world’s most powerful men.
…and on ‘paedo is land, Mandelson’s friend Ghislaine Maxwell (right) cuddles Epstein’s notorious fixer, Jean-Luc Brunel (left)
Mandelson and Epstein’s hitherto unknown shopping trip took place on December 27, 2005, six months before the now-notorious Epstein was arrested in Florida and charged with a string of child sex offences.
Details have emerged, and can now be reported, thanks to two of the extraordinary photographs that are featured on these pages.
They form part of a remarkable and never-before-seen cache that provide a visual record of daily life in the high-octane (and somewhat seedy) orbit of the morally-bankrupt billionaire, who killed himself in prison this month while facing prosecution on multiple counts of paedophilia and child sex trafficking.
Obtained by the Mail via a source with detailed knowledge of events on Little St James — now nicknamed ‘paedophile island’ and ‘orgy island’ — the photographs raise tricky questions for Mandelson as well as a number of Epstein’s closest associates.
There are multiple images of Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite who orchestrated the billionaire’s social life, introduced him to Prince Andrew and has been widely accused (in multiple lawsuits, and in court in New York this week) of recruiting teenage girls to Epstein’s child prostitution ring.
Sordid: Epstein used a quad bike to transport teenage girls. Jeffrey Epstein on holiday
Maxwell, the daughter of crooked newspaper tycoon Robert, who has previously denied any wrongdoing, features in several striking images, including one on these pages which shows her inside Epstein’s main residence on Little St James. It was taken shortly after Christmas 2006.
That date is significant. It was just six months after Epstein had been charged with abusing a large number of teenage girls. He was in the process of assembling a superstar legal team which pulled strings to prevent him serving a substantial prison sentence.
Yet he seems to have barely a care in the world. Indeed, with extraordinary chutzpah, he and Maxwell can be seen larking around with several alleged ‘sex slaves’ who had been flown to the island for the New Year holidays.
Most of the girls, whose pictures cannot be printed (as victims, they must not be identified), appear to be in their late teens. Equally damning for Maxwell is the fact that she can be seen embracing Jean-Luc Brunel, a French model agency boss accused (again in multiple lawsuits, and in a New York court this week) of helping traffic teenage girls.
Brunel, now 72, was alleged in recently unsealed court documents to have used his fashion business to provide the billionaire with a steady supply of impressionable young women who were then sexually assaulted. In return, Epstein is said to have invested in his businesses. Now under investigation, he has also denied wrongdoing.
Then European External Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and Prince Andrew, Duke of York
‘As you can see from the photos, Jean-Luc and Ghislaine were best of friends and worked very closely together with the girls they brought to Jeffrey,’ says the aforementioned source. Any time they were on the island, they managed groups of girls, told them what to do, how to do it, how to please Jeffrey, and instructed them how to behave in front of his guests.’
To this end — while it must again be stressed that Maxwell and Brunel have always denied criminality — they have been accused of committing hair-raising misdemeanours in a series of lawsuits and witness statements filed in the U.S. in recent months.
Most notably, Brunel (who was further accused of sexual assault by three women interviewed by The Guardian last month) appears in recently unsealed court documents, which claim he once flew three 12-year-old girls from France to the U.S. to provide erotic massages for Epstein, by way of a sordid birthday present.
A fourth photo from the cache obtained by the Mail shows Epstein, then in his 50s, touring his island on a quad bike. He regularly used the machine to transport topless teenagers to and from the beach, and to visit an outdoor temple he built near a corner of the island where he’s believed to have committed several sex crimes.
Other images provide further insights into life on Little St James, revealing, for example, that Perspex boxes filled with condoms were kept in guest bedrooms.
‘You hear so many people who were there, or who knew and spent time with Epstein, now saying, “Oh, we never suspected anything bad was happening,” or “We never thought the girls were being exploited,”’ adds the source.
‘The pictures show just how absurd those claims are. Epstein, a man in his 50s, was surrounding himself with teenagers.
The European External Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson (back) welcomes Prince Andrew, Duke of York prior to their bilateral meeting 07 June 2007 at the EU Commission’s Headquarters in Brussels
‘If you were sitting there, having a glass of champagne at sundown, or eating crab cakes at lunch, and you saw the young girls being made to parade around and asked to give people massages, you’d have to have been blind to think something wasn’t wrong.
‘There’s no way a right-thinking person could have spent time with Epstein on Little St James and thought some of the things going on were remotely OK.’
This island was a place where some of the world’s most famous and powerful men and women have seen fit to accept freebie holidays.
Cathy Alexander, who worked as a housekeeper there, told the Mail On Sunday in a 2011 interview that Andrew turned up on one visit in the early 2000s with a tall, busty, blonde woman who shared his room. Alexander recalled that the prince’s consort ‘was a brain surgeon’.
She further told reporters that Mandelson’s visit saw his partner, Reinaldo, suffer serious sunburn. All of which begs a few questions about character. Among them: what on Earth possessed Mandelson and the duke (high-profile public figures on the payroll of the taxpayer,) to accept hospitality from a mysterious foreign billionaire whose wealth was of unknown provenance? What did they think Epstein was gaining from the transaction?
Epstein, pictured in a prison mugshot in 2017
The duke has never properly explained, choosing instead to issue a series of self-serving PR statements about his friendship with the convicted paedophile, which continued even after Epstein had emerged from prison.
Mandelson, who these days earns a crust in the well-renumerated world of lobbying, is similarly quiet: he declined to answer questions the Mail submitted regarding his dealings with the convicted paedophile.
Andrew and Mandelson happen to be long-standing friends, having become acquainted soon after New Labour took office in the late 1990s. Interestingly, it seems that in the years that followed, the duo often socialised with each other. They also have in common friendships with a number of foreign billionaires.
Mandelson and the prince’s chumminess first made headlines in 1999, when Mandelson was reported to be dining regularly at Sunninghill, the prince’s home. He then agreed to join Andrew’s ‘full stop’ NSPCC campaign against child abuse, showing up to a series of fundraisers which the duke attended.
In 2000, both Mandelson and Andrew were, in another overlapping social connection, said to be not just guests but also two of the witnesses at the wedding of merchant banker Sir Evelyn de Rothschild to Lynn Forester. She is an American entrepreneur who was a long-standing friend of Epstein.
Importantly, the next year the prince was appointed British trade ambassador.
At the time, Mandelson was reported by The Guardian, the Mail and the French news agency AFP to have been a key figure in lobbying for the duke, who had recently left the Royal Navy, to get the job. (Friends of Mandelson now deny this was the case.)
By this stage, both were on Epstein’s radar, having seemingly been introduced to his decadent world via Maxwell. Andrew was busy inviting the dubious financier (and his female companions) to Windsor Castle, Sandringham and Balmoral.
Mandelson was meanwhile accepting Epstein’s hospitality at glamorous dinners in Manhattan.
A 2002 report in New York magazine stated that the ‘British Cabinet minister’ had attended an intimate dinner party at Epstein’s New York home alongside a motley collection of guests including Donald Trump, magician David Blaine and Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google. It added that food had been cooked by celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito, at a cost to Epstein of $50,000.
Strangely, Mandelson — then a serving MP — did not see fit to declare the expensive hospitality he received in the Commons register of interests — though he did register other events he attended during a 2002 visit to New York.
Mandelson did not comment when asked for an explanation about the matter this week. However, speaking more broadly, an acquaintance said that the Labour politician met Epstein on a total of ‘no more than five or six occasions’ in the years they were acquainted, adding that, ‘Peter only knows him because of a friendship with Ghislaine, who he met in the 1980s and has known ever since.
‘It was Ghislaine, not Epstein, who invited him to Little St James, when he stayed on the island with Reinaldo. Epstein wasn’t there during that stay, and neither were any girls or what have you.
‘So however bad it might now look, there was nothing about the visit that could have led him to believe anything untoward went on there.’
The photograph of the shopping trip also came about because of Ghislaine, the acquaintance added. ‘Peter was staying on St Barts that Christmas, and it’s pretty close to the U.S. Virgin Islands, so she thought it would be fun to fly Jeffrey out to see him in a helicopter for the day. Obviously the picture was taken, and in the current climate it looks bad, but it’s more poor choreography than anything sinister.’
Be that as it may, both Mandelson and Andrew feature heavily in the now-notorious ‘little black book’ of contacts that Epstein kept at his home around the time they were visiting his various homes.
Currently in the possession of the FBI, it contains ten numbers for the politician, including ones marked ‘home’, ‘country’ and ‘Peter’s direct line’, and no fewer than 16 for the Duke of York, including personal contact details at Sandringham and other royal residences.
Only a small portion of the individuals in that book are listed with more than one or two contact numbers.
Like Andrew, Mandelson also met Virginia Roberts, a victim of Epstein who was photographed with the duke and claims to have been paid to have sex with him on three occasions in the early 2000s (allegations Andrew disputes). ‘I never heard of Jeffrey knowing Tony Blair, but he did know Peter Mandelson,’ Roberts told an interviewer in 2011.
‘I remember him [Mandelson] being at the house in New York and I was introduced to him at a dinner party.
‘He and Jeffrey talked business. I assumed they were in business together. I was never asked to give him [Mandelson] a massage.’
Later in the 2000s, when Mandelson was European Trade Commissioner and Andrew his British counterpart, the duo became familiar with the turbo-charged world that Epstein and other ‘masters of the universe’ inhabited.
They were regularly photographed together at Davos and events such as the Russian Economic Forum, a London conference which in 2005 boasted Andrew as guest of honour and Mandelson as keynote speaker.
They also built somewhat murkier links to other rich men of — shall we say — colourful provenance.
Take, for example, the government of Kazakhstan. Both Mandelson and Andrew for some reason agreed in 2009 to attend the 30th birthday party of Goga Ashkenazi, socialite mistress of despotic president Nursultan Nazarbayev’s son-in-law Timur Kulibayev.
Kulibayev had famously purchased the aforementioned Sunninghill from Prince Andrew in 2007, paying £3 million over the £12 million asking price in a deal which has never been properly explained. In 2010, he added Mandelson to his payroll, paying him to speak at an event organised by Samruk-Kazyna, the central Asian country’s private wealth fund.
In another controversial connection with oil-rich foreigners, both Mandelson and the prince forged links with Saif Gaddafi, the hugely wealthy son of the late Libyan despot who was attempting to funnel vast amounts of cash into New Labour’s Britain.
It is, however, revelations regarding their relationships with Epstein which now have the potential to generate the ugliest headlines — not least since investigations by the Mail reveal both men encountered the disgraced financier after he served a jail sentence for child sex offences (albeit in very different circumstances.)
Andrew, famously, stayed at the convicted paedophile’s New York town house in 2010, where he hosted a dinner party and was photographed walking with Epstein in Central Park.
Mandelson ended up meeting the court-certified sex offender a year later.
‘Peter was invited to a meeting by Ghislaine in 2011,’ says a friend. ‘She is a very old friend, so he went along. But when he turned up, Epstein was there. It was a complete accident, and very unfortunate, but for obvious reasons he’s very concerned about how it might now look.’
Despite the incident, Mandelson in 2014 agreed to become one of the ‘founding citizens’ of TerraMar, a now-defunct ocean charity set up by Maxwell with Epstein’s financial support.
In an endorsement published on its website, he declared: ‘The oceans and the politics of water generally will be one of the defining issues of the 21st century…that’s why I am supporting the new TerraMar initiative.’
Sources close to the peer now say he did that ‘as a favour to Ghislaine, because they were old friends’.
They further deny that there was anything untoward in his decision to secretly accept hospitality from the financier in the years when he was on the public payroll running European trade.
‘He was trade commissioner, which is dealing with things like manufacturing, and nothing to do with the financial markets, which is where Epstein operated. There’s nothing legally wrong with what he did, and it’s a result of bad luck, rather than bad character.
‘And obviously he’s a gay man, so one saving grace is that no one can suspect him of having slept with any of Epstein’s girls.
‘The problem for Peter is that Epstein is so utterly toxic that everyone who had anything to do with him is being caught in the fall-out. This is now becoming a witch hunt.’
Similar claims have, in recent days, been made (with less justification) by supporters of Prince Andrew. So it’s interesting to note that, in 2015, Mandelson was present at a reception during the World Economic Forum in Davos when the duke used a speech to deny allegations that he’d slept with the aforementioned Roberts.
As the world’s media looked on, Andrew’s comments seeking to deny wrongdoing consisted of 46 words and lasted only 37 seconds.
Doubtless he hoped that the uncomfortable occasion would bring an end to undignified reporting of his involvement in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. But that isn’t how it played out.
As the ensuing four years have shown, this is an affair that gets more damaging with every new revelation about the life, times, and bizarre connections of the billionaire paedophile with friends in high places.