Less than three weeks after announcing that he will come out of political retirement to challenge Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister in the upcoming Israeli elections, as YNet News reported, former prime minister Ehud Barak is facing allegations that he is financially tied to convicted sex offender and shadowy financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to a sexual offense with a 14-year-old girl, and was arrested again on July 6 on new sex trafficking charges. Barak, a former lieutenant general in Israel's army, served as Israel's 10th prime minister from 1999 to 2001, after defeating Netanyahu, who was then serving his first term as Israeli PM.
The allegation, and earlier reports of financial ties between Epstein and Barak, have suddenly made Epstein a figure in Israel's highly contentious politics, leading up to the next scheduled elections in September, according to The Forward. Barak announced in June that he will run against Netanyahu in that election.
Barak is the controlling shareholder in an Israeli communications firm, Carbyne, after investing in the firm in 2015. Barak now serves as chair of Carbyne. But his initial investment was largely financed by Epstein, according to an investigative report by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The report follows a revelation earlier this week that Barak received a $2 million grant in 2004 from billionaire retail magnate and philanthropist Leslie Wexner, through the Wexner Foundation. Epstein served on Wexner's board of trustees at that time, The Forward reported.
Though Barak served as Israeli defense minister in Netanhayu's cabinet from 2009 to 2013, Netanyahu has not been shy about making a political issue out of Barak's alleged financial links to Epstein. Earlier this week, on his Twitter account, the current prime minister posted a video linking Barak to Epstein, asking, "What else did the sex offender give to Barak?"
Barak has acknowledged that he met Epstein "several times," according to YNet News, but said that Epstein "didn't support me or pay me."
He added that he has met numerous people involved in "problematic things" in his career, adding, "I also met Netanyahu," an apparent reference to the corruption charges currently facing the prime minister. In February, Israel's attorney general said that he planned to indict Netanyahu for "fraud and breach of trust" over lavish gifts Netanyahu allegedly accepted from a Hollywood film producer and an Australian billionaire, according to the BBC.
Netanyahu has denied the charges and claimed that case against him will soon "collapse like a house of cards."
The source and extent of Epstein's wealth has remained mysterious and has become the subject of considerable speculation. As The Inquisitr reported, some financial experts now believe that Epstein may have been operating a blackmail operation, using the sex trafficking ring he is accused of running to gain leverage of over rich and powerful prospective investors.