US financier Epstein 'commits suicide' in jail, FBI investigates

US financier Jeffrey Epstein, indicted on charges he trafficked underage girls for sex, committed suicide in prison, US news media reported Saturday. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 August 2019

US financier Epstein 'commits suicide' in jail, FBI investigates

  • Epstein, 66, had been found in his cell in late July with marks on his neck after an apparent suicide attempt
  • His death quickly raised questions about how he could take his own life despite reportedly being put on suicide watch after his first failed attempt

NEW YORK: Disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein has committed suicide in prison while awaiting trial on charges that he trafficked underage girls for sex, officials and US news media reported Saturday.
Epstein, a convicted pedophile who befriended numerous politicians and celebrities over the years, was found unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center from "an apparent suicide", the US Department of Justice said.
He was discovered around 6:30 am (1130 GMT) and rushed to hospital in New York where he was pronounced dead, it added in a statement.
"The FBI is investigating the incident," the department said.
The New York Times and other media quoted officials as saying Epstein had hanged himself.
The city medical examiner's office confirmed Epstein's death but said nothing about what caused it. It said a medical investigation has been opened.
Epstein's death comes a day after a tranche of sealed legal documents were released for the first time providing new details about what prosecutors allege was Epstein's sex-trafficking operation.
It also comes just over two weeks after the 66-year-old was found unconscious in his cell with marks on his neck after an apparent suicide attempt.
Epstein did not appear to be showing any visible signs of injuries when he appeared in court on July 31 following that incident, to be told that his trial wouldn't begin before June next year.
The hedge fund manager had been charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
He was denied bail last month in a New York court because he was deemed a flight risk.
Epstein denied the charges and had faced up to 45 years in prison - effectively the rest of his life - if convicted.
The Metropolitan Correction Center, a federal facility in Manhattan that is often used to house suspects awaiting or during trial, is considered one of the most secure penal establishments in the US.
The infamous Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman spent more than two years there before being convicted and transferred to a federal prison in Colorado.
Epstein's death quickly raised questions about how he could take his own life despite reportedly being put on suicide watch after his first failed attempt.
"We need answers. Lots of them," tweeted New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
On Friday, two thousand pages of documents focusing on testimony by a victim who claimed she was a "sex slave" of Epstein were released by a New York court.
In them, Virginia Giuffre, now an adult, claims that she was forced to have sex with some well-known American political and business personalities. They have all strenuously denied the allegations.
Prosecutors said Epstein sexually exploited dozens of underage teenagers, some as young as 14, at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.
They claim that Epstein was "well aware that many of the victims were minors."
The girls were paid hundreds of dollars in cash to massage him, perform sexual acts and to recruit other girls, prosecutors allege.
They say Epstein had an army of recruiters, often not much older than their targets, who would approach vulnerable teens.
Epstein is also accused of paying off possible co-conspirators to "influence" them, US media have reported.
Epstein, whose friends have included President Donald Trump, former president Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew, was convicted previously of paying young girls for sexual massages at his Palm Beach mansion.
They have all denied knowing anything about his alleged crimes.
Epstein avoided federal prosecution under a plea deal that required him to admit to a single Florida state charge of soliciting prostitution from a minor and register as a sex offender.
He served 13 months in a county jail before being released in 2009.
Last month, Alex Acosta resigned as US labor secretary amid a backlash over the deal that he negotiated with Epstein in that case while he was a federal prosecutor in Florida.


Can Muslims swing UK vote?

Updated 07 December 2019

Can Muslims swing UK vote?

  • They may be a minority, but British Muslim voters could have a major impact at the ballot box, a new report suggests
  • The Muslim Council of Britain has identified 18 constituencies in which Muslim voters could have a high impact

LONDON: With Islamophobia on the rise in the UK, and uncertainty surrounding Brexit and its implications, British Muslims could have a significant impact on the result of the Dec. 9 general election simply by exercising their right to vote.

Despite the UK’s Muslim population standing at 5 percent, there are 31 marginal seats in which Muslim voters could have a “high” or “medium” impact, according to a list published by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

The council has identified 18 constituencies in which Muslim voters may have a high impact, and 13 in which they could have a medium impact.

Top of the list for high-impact areas are Kensington, Dudley North and Richmond Park.

High-impact seats are those where the current margin of victory is small and the proportion of Muslim voters is significant compared to the margin of victory.

In Kensington, Labour candidate Emma Dent Coad won her seat in 2017 by a margin of 20 votes.

The number of Muslims of voting age in this constituency, estimated at 5,431, is 272 times this margin.

A British Muslim woman leaves a polling station after voting in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, UK, in a previous election. (Shutterstock)

In Dudley North and Richmond Park, the Muslim electorate — which stands at 4 percent of voting-age constituents — was over 70 times the victory margin in both constituencies, which was 22 and 45 votes, respectively. Muslims are, therefore, in a position to make a difference in high-impact seats such as these.

The MCB is the UK’s largest and most diverse Muslim umbrella organization, with over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organizations, mosques, charities and schools.

It does not endorse any political party or prospective parliamentary candidate.

Ahead of the last general election, the MCB identified 16 high- and 23 medium-impact seats where it thought Muslims could make a difference.

“Where we highlighted that these seats had the potential for Muslims to have a huge impact if they voted a particular way, we did see that actually come to fruition,” the MCB’s Public Affairs Manager Zainab Gulamali said.

In the 16 constituencies where the MCB thought Muslims could have a high impact, every one of these seats went on to be held by the Labour Party.

Eleven of these were previously Labour seats, but it increased its majority, and five were previously Conservative seats.

Of the 23 medium-impact constituencies, 16 seats in which Labour was the incumbent saw an increase in its majority, with the exception of Bolton North East.

Of the seven previously Conservative seats, five were retained with a smaller majority, one seat was gained by the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservatives increased their majority in the final seat.

The MCB’s election policy platform report said Muslims “do not all affiliate with one particular political party. Muslims vote for different reasons like all voters.”

It added that the British government’s own analysis confirms that “minorities are not a bloc vote that automatically supports Labour irrespective of Labour’s performance.”

Gulamali said: “This election is going to be a really interesting one for Muslims and non-Muslims, and the fact that the UK is going through unprecedented change means that it’s important for everyone to get out and vote.”

She added: “The choices that people will make in this election will be really crucial. We know that Muslims choose to vote for whoever they vote for based on a number of concerns, especially as Islamophobia is so prevalent in particular political parties.

“We think that would be something that many Muslims consider when casting their vote.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently apologized for the “hurt and offence” caused by instances of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.

He said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” in his party would begin by Christmas.

Former party Chairwoman Baroness Warsi — the first Muslim woman to be part of a British Cabinet, who has been calling for an inquiry into Islamophobia within the party — said the apology was “a good start.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has apologized for the ‘hurt and offence’ caused by instances of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party.  (AFP)

Johnson’s apology came as Flora Scarabello, who was running as the Conservative candidate for Glasgow Central, was suspended by the party over “alleged use of anti-Muslim language.”

A party spokesman said: “There is no place in the Scottish Conservatives for anti-Muslim language, or any other form of racial or religious discrimination.”

Johnson has remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women. Writing in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, he said Muslim women wearing the niqab “look like letter boxes” or bank robbers.

The MCB report said there “has been a disturbing and dangerous rise in Islamophobic incidents and support of anti-Muslim sentiments within political parties,” and urged them to investigate “issues of Islamophobia within their parties.”

Gulamali said: “Before the general election, we surveyed over 500 of our affiliates and other British Muslims, and we found that tackling Islamophobia was a No. 1 priority the Muslims that we spoke to had for political parties.”

But “Muslims don’t just care about Islamophobia and Muslim issues. They also care about all the other issues that everyone else cares about,” she added.

These include Brexit. A recent MCB survey of its affiliates and wider Muslim communities found that 77 percent of participants back remaining in the EU. The same percentage of participants support a second referendum on Brexit.

“Muslims are overwhelmingly poorer than mainstream society — 46 percent of the Muslim population resides in the 10 percent most deprived local authority districts in England,” Gulamali said.

“We know that Brexit is likely to hit people in low socioeconomic groups more than people who are well off. So Muslims will be disadvantaged by Brexit in that way.”

Muslim voters also care about issues such as the privatization of the National Health Service, tackling knife crime, unemployment and the cost of living.

Boris Johnson's apology was described as ‘a good start’ by Baroness Warsi, right, the party’s former chairwoman. (AFP)

The MCB held its first national Muslim voter registration day on Nov. 22, when it encouraged political participation among Muslims, 300,000 of whom registered to vote that day.

The East London Mosque’s London’s Muslim Centre took part in the MCB’s voter registration drive.

Dilowar Khan, its director, said by taking part in the initiative, “we hope to have played our part in increasing awareness for our congregants of their democratic right to vote and cause change.”

He added: “Overall, we hope this increased political participation by the Muslim community will help steer our country toward a better society.”

Khan said: “It’s only through engagement that we can identify and voice key issues affecting Muslim communities.”

He added: “It’s important that everyone realizes their potential to cause change via political participation.

“Muslims make up a significant minority in the UK, and it’s of utmost importance that our concerns are validated and that our politicians address these issues,” Khan said.