Thursday, May 26

‘Personal, vengeful, arsonist’: Epstein-linked legal battle escalates | New York

WWith the criminal conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell moving toward an appeal, and Virginia Giuffre’s civil case against Prince Andrew mired in arguments over evidence and depositions, another high-profile case involving convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein is working its way through the court system. from New York. .

It’s also dragging down some of the biggest names in New York society’s elite, in this case sending shockwaves through the rarefied world of Manhattan finance.

Leon Black, one of the richest men in New York with an estimated net worth of $13.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and former head of Apollo Global Management and president of the Museum of Modern Art (Moma), is locked in a bitter dispute with Guzel Ganieva, a Russian model and former lover who has accused him of sexual violence and claims that Black pressured her to engage in sexual acts. with Epstein.

In recent months, the feud between the 70-year-old Black and Ganieva has intensified with a series of back-and-forth trials in which the accusations have grown increasingly serious and escalated to attract figures from some one of the most powerful social circles in Manhattan. .

Ganieva’s initial allegations of defamation, intentionally inflicting emotional distress, gender-based violence and retaliation were first revealed in tweets early last year, and followed revelations about $158 million in payments Black made to Epstein for tax advice. and financial services that precipitated its passage. below Apollo and Moma.

In June, Ganieva sued Black in New York state court, described above, alleging that he forced her to sign a 2015 confidentiality agreement about their six-and-a-half-year relationship, and defamed her by claiming he tried to extort money from her. him threatening to go public with their relationship.

Black’s attorneys have called Ganieva’s lawsuit “a work of fiction” and said he made payments only to ensure his silence about their relationship.

Black has said he rejected Ganieva’s initial demand of $100 million, but reached an agreement that, in exchange for a confidentiality agreement, he would forgive $1 million in loans and pay her $100,000 a month for 15 years. He also gave her $2.75 million to help her obtain a British visa or passport.

Now the dispute has become even more acrimonious.

After Ganieva accused him of sexual abuse, Black not only denied Ganieva’s accusations or countersued in New York civil court, the same jurisdiction in which he sued him, but also filed a federal lawsuit against US drug dealers.

Ganieva’s complaints “are shams,” Black’s attorneys in the federal case responded, and while they said her relationship with Ganieva was “regrettable,” they said her claims were “fraudulently designed to mislead the New York state court.” York and (more directly) to smear and intimidate Mr. Black into adding to the exorbitant payments he has already made to prevent Ms. Ganieva from further destroying him.”

In the lawsuit, Black claimed that Ganieva and her attorneys at Wigdor, a firm that has been at the forefront of civil settlements with men accused of sexual misconduct during the #MeToo era, such as disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein, they conspired with others to extort money. him and destroy his reputation.

Black’s attorneys said in the complaint: “They waged war on multiple fronts and had multiple goals, including obtaining more money through extortion or the adjudication of fraudulently induced litigation; destroy Mr. Black’s reputation and business; undermine your career; interfere with your business relationships; and raise concerns about his leadership of the company he created and nurtured for the last 30 years.”

Black’s attorney in the federal action is Susan Estrich, a legal scholar who rose to prominence as manager of Michael Dukakis’s 1988 presidential campaign and later defended former Fox News executive Roger Ailes against sexual harassment allegations.

In court papers, filed in Manhattan, Estrich described Ganieva and her lawyers in Wigdor as perpetrating a far-reaching extortion scheme “to try to get even more from Mr. Black, or destroy him in the process.”

The defendants “deceived and manipulated the media and the courts, using the mail and wires, to orchestrate Mr. Black’s murder at every level,” according to Black’s attorneys.

But Estrich has also alleged that the conspiracy includes anonymous co-conspirators or “John Does,” including two “flacks,” or public relations specialists, and a deep-pocketed financial backer to “go toe-to-toe with a billionaire.”

Black’s attorneys have also said they plan to find out who is paying Wigdor’s fees in Ganieva’s action against him. Ganieva agreed to pay Wigdor 38% of the money she received from Black, according to a settlement letter filed in the case.

Ganieva and Wigdor deny the accusations against them.

Wigdor filed a motion to dismiss, calling the action “frivolous as a matter of law” and arguing that “Black and his attorney know there is no evidentiary support or good faith basis for their artificial and flawed ‘Rico’.” [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] and claims of ‘defamation’”.

The financier’s attorneys say an amended complaint will be filed in the coming days that will further expose the alleged conspiracy against Black.

Recent court revelations offer a hint of the direction it may take.

Black’s lawyers have requested that the presiding judge allow them access to private records involving some of New York’s most prominent businessmen, including his partner at Apollo, Josh Harris, owner of the Premier League soccer club Crystal Palace. , who agitated for Black to resign. after Black’s payments to Epstein were revealed.

Harris’s attorney, Jonathan Rosen, described Black’s advances as “desperate and absurd” and denied any connection between Harris and Ganieva or their attorneys.

“Mr Harris has nothing to do with the deeply worrying situation Mr Black finds himself in, and any statement or implication to the contrary is unhinged at best,” Rosen told The Guardian.

Others included in Black’s Rico action are Steven Rubenstein, the New York public relations executive whose clients include Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates and Donald Trump; and Michael Rubin, a sporting goods billionaire and co-owner, with Harris, of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers.

According to court documents, Black’s attorneys wanted to know of any contact Rubenstein had with nine named people, including Ganieva, her attorneys and reporters. Rubenstein and Rubin also objected to being dragged into the case.

Rubenstein’s lawyers said in court filings that “any private citizen should be horrified that [a bystander to a lawsuit] you could be subject to a subpoena requesting all of your phone records simply on the whim of a litigant.”

Jeanne Christensen, a Wigdor attorney named in the lawsuit, believes that instead of filing a counterclaim in Ganieva’s original state court lawsuit against the financier, Black filed a new federal court case that potentially moves faster.

“Basically, he’s just trying to intimidate our client by filing a separate lawsuit against her,” Christensen told The Guardian. “It is a tactic to cause a possible division between her and her lawyers. He is hitting her from as many sides as he can. It is too bad.

Bennett Gershman, a former prosecutor with the New York state anti-corruption office who teaches law at Pace University, said he couldn’t think of another civil sexual harassment case that had come back to another court with a complaint from Rico.

“This goes way beyond what you normally see,” Gershman told The Guardian.

“I have never seen a litigant bring a Rico action against a woman who we thought had settled to the tune of a million dollars a year. It’s getting out of hand in terms of being personal, vindictive and incendiary. Litigation in the US is often adversarial and contentious, but this goes much further. They are doing it tooth and nail.”

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