Jeffrey Epstein allegedly threatened Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates with details about the tech billionaire’s alleged affair with a Russian bridge player, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“Mr. Gates met with Epstein solely for philanthropic purposes,” a Gates spokesperson told the WSJ. “Having failed time and time again to persuade Mr. Gates on these matters, Epstein tried unsuccessfully to use the past relationship to threaten Mr. Gates.”
Gates met Russian bridge player Mila Antonova in 2010, when she was 20 and Gates was in his mid-50s, at a bridge tournament where the two played against each other, according to the Journal. Antonova is from Russia, but moved to the US and started working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley, according to her LinkedIn.
Antonova publicly discussed meeting the tech billionaire in a 2010 video detailing that she “didn’t hit” Gates, but “tried to kick him in the leg,” according to the WSJ. Gates is a noted lover of the game of bridge and even competes against fellow billionaire Warren Buffett.
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After meeting Gates, Antonova wanted to start an online venture teaching people how to play bridge. He began contacting potential donors, with Gates confidant Boris Nikolic connecting him to Epstein, according to documents reviewed by the outlet.
In November 2013, Antonova and Nikolic reportedly met with Epstein at his New York City home to pitch the proposal and attempt to raise $500,000. Epstein ultimately did not donate to the proposal, called “BridgePlanet,” the WSJ reported, citing Antonova.
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“I deeply regret meeting Epstein,” Nikolic stressed to the outlet. “His crimes were despicable. I have never seen anything like his illegal behavior. My heart goes out to his victims and their families.”
The following November, Antonova stayed in an apartment provided by Epstein, but “did not interact with him or anyone else while there,” she said. That year, he decided to become a software engineer and sought out donors to help pay for programming classes.
“Epstein agreed to pay and he paid directly to the school. Nothing was exchanged. I don’t know why he did that,” he said, the outlet reported. “When I asked, he said like, he’s rich and wants to help people when he can.”
Meanwhile, Epstein attempted to set up a multibillion-dollar charitable fund at JPMorgan, in part to help repair his public image following his 2008 conviction for soliciting prostitutes, including a minor de old woman The plan depends on him getting wealthy donors, including Gates, to pool their money for the fund, according to the report.
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Gates and Epstein met several times before Epstein’s death in 2019, which Gates later said he regretted. In emails reviewed by the WSJ, Epstein sent emails to JPMorgan that tried to give the impression that he was an adviser to Gates. A spokesperson for the tech billionaire told the outlet that Epstein never worked for Gates and misrepresented their relationship with JPMorgan.
Funding stalled and ultimately did not go.
“The firm does not need him as a client,” a JPMorgan spokeswoman told the WSJ of Epstein. “The company doesn’t need him for introductions. Knowing what we know now, we wish we hadn’t done business with him.”
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In 2017, years after Gates’ alleged affair with Antonova, Epstein emailed Gates about the bridge player, sources with knowledge of the incident told the WSJ. Antonova denied commenting to the WSJ about Gates specifically, the outlet noted.
Epstein reportedly asked Gates to return to him the funds used to cover Antonova’s software programming classes. Gates did not send a payment, said a Gates spokesman.
“Mr. Gates had no financial dealings with Epstein,” the spokesman said.
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The sources said that the cost of the classes was not related to the two men, but that the tone of the email indicated that Epstein was aware of the alleged activity and could expose Gates.