United Kingdom

Jeffrey Epstein pal is helping to fund UK lottery bidder

A fund run by a billionaire friend of Jeffrey Epstein is bankrolling a bid to run the National Lottery, the Mail can reveal.

Wall Street mogul Leon Black visited Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean after the paedophile was freed from a jail term for sex crimes in 2008 and paid him £120million for financial advice, a US inquiry has discovered.

Mr Black’s private equity fund, Apollo Global Management, has invested £450million in a Czech firm to help it develop new business, including the UK lottery.

The bid by the company – Sazka – is being fronted by Sir Keith Mills, a close friend of Prince Harry who was the deputy chairman of the London 2012 Olympics.

Until last year he was chairman of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Foundation, William and Kate’s charity.

A fund run by Leon Black (right), a billionaire friend of Jeffrey Epstein (left) is bankrolling a bid to run the National Lottery, the Mail can reveal

Last week Sazka, which runs lotteries in Eastern Europe, announced former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King and lastminute.com entrepreneur Brent Hoberman had joined its UK team.

The National Lottery has been operated since it started in 1994 by Camelot, which made a £98million profit last year.

The franchise comes up for renewal every ten years, and the Gambling Commission is due to decide in September between Camelot, Sazka and an Indian firm, Sugal and Damani.

Following the inquiry into Mr Black’s ties to Epstein – which was ordered by Apollo itself – the financier said yesterday that he plans to step down as its chief executive in the summer when he turns 70 – although he will stay on as chairman.

The report, by law firm Dechert, found that as well as the £120million Mr Black paid Epstein for advice – said to have saved the disgraced tycoon millions in tax – he also loaned him £24million, only £8million of which was repaid.

It comes after US newspaper reports last year that Mr Black paid millions to an aircraft firm to pay for Epstein’s private jet.

Before he was convicted and jailed for procuring child prostitution in Florida in 2008, Epstein had many high-profile friends including Bill Gates and former US President Bill Clinton.

Most ceased to have anything to do with him, but Mr Black continued to have dealings with him, after even Prince Andrew ended his association in 2010.

The bid by the company – Sazka – is being fronted by Sir Keith Mills (pictured right with Duchess of Cambride Kate Middleton) a close friend of Prince Harry who was the deputy chairman of the London 2012 Olympics

Their friendship continued until 2018, the year before Epstein was arrested again and charged with sex trafficking children in New York, then killed himself in jail.

Mr Black, who founded Apollo 31 years ago and has an estimated personal fortune of £7billion, has said he regrets his decision to ‘give Epstein a second chance’ and that continuing the friendship was a ‘terrible mistake’.

The Dechert report, which was ordered by the rest of Apollo’s board last year, says he ‘viewed him as a confirmed bachelor with eccentric tastes’, and that he believed he had ‘served his time’.

However, there is nothing to suggest that Mr Black, who is also chairman of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, knew anything about Epstein’s involvement with under-age girls or saw any evidence of impropriety. The report from Dechert confirms that.

Mr Black first met Epstein in 1996 when his network of associates, he said, ‘included luminaries I respected and admired, including several heads of state, heads of prominent families in finance, Nobel laureates and noted philanthropists’. Epstein served 13 months in jail in Florida following a controversial plea deal and had to register as a sex offender.

Further allegations were made against him in the years after his release when Mr Black was doing business with him, with several lawsuits brought by alleged Epstein victims including Virginia Roberts.

Wall Street mogul Leon Black (pictured) visited Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean after the paedophile was freed from a jail term for sex crimes in 2008 and paid him £120million for financial advice, a US inquiry has discovered

These culminated in his arrest in July 2019. Weeks later Epstein was found dead in his New York cell while awaiting trial, after apparently having hanged himself.

As the public face of the Sazka bid, Sir Keith Mills has waxed lyrical about the firm’s record running lotteries in Greece, Italy and Austria.

He has promised to invest some of his own £125million fortune if it succeeds, praising Sazka’s ‘vision for the future of lotteries’ and commitment to good causes.

Last night a Sazka spokesman refused to comment, saying only: ‘This is Apollo’s internal matter that has nothing to do with Sazka Group.’ Apollo’s board says Mr Black plans to donate £160million to charities that fight sex trafficking. Apollo, which will appoint its co-founder Marc Rowan as chief executive, declined to comment on the lottery bid.

But a spokesman said: ‘All fees paid to Mr Epstein by Mr Black or his family office were for bona fide tax estate planning and other related services.

‘Dechert found no evidence that Mr Black was involved in any way with Mr Epstein’s criminal activities at any time.’ 

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