Jeffrey Epstein referred to as 'he who must not be named' or 'Voldemort' by some MIT Media Lab staff, in an apparent reference to the 'Harry Potter' villain
- New documents obtained by The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow revealed that the MIT Media Lab had actively covered up its involvement with Jeffrey Epstein, who died by suicide last month.
- Any mention of Epstein was carefully covered up, even down to noting his initials in appointment memos in director Joichi Ito's calendar, which typically lists full names, per The New Yorker report.
- Some staff working under the lab's director, Joichi Ito, referred to Epstein as the popular "Harry Potter" villain, whose name was feared or taboo, exemplifying the hushed attitude around his involvement.
- Moreover, the Media Lab had previously claimed that it had only received $800,000 (R11 million) in donations from Epstein, but records obtained by The New Yorker showed that Epstein had helped secure at least $7.5 million (R111 million) from other donors.
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Staff of the MIT Media Lab working for the lab's director, Joichi Ito, reportedly referred to criminal financier Jeffrey Epstein as "Voldemort," or "he who must not be named," referencing the popular "Harry Potter" villain whose name is tabooed in the book series.
New documents obtained by The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow revealed that the university's research center had deeper involvement with the late Epstein than was previously known - and that it actively worked to conceal the ties, which included previously undisclosed donations and alleged involvement in other big name donations to the school.
Epstein's initials were used in appointment memos in Ito's calendar, which typically listed full names, per The New Yorker report. Peter Cohen, the MIT Media Lab's Director of Development and Strategy, also reiterated in an email that "Jeffrey money, needs to be anonymous." Ito and Cohen did not comment to The New Yorker.
In August, Ito issued an apology saying, "In my fund-raising efforts for MIT Media Lab, I invited him to the lab and visited several of his residences. I want you to know that in all of my interactions with Epstein, I was never involved in, never heard him talk about and never saw any evidence of the horrific acts that he was accused of."
MIT President President L. Rafael Reif also issued an apology on behalf of the school for accepting donations last month.
The Media Lab previously claimed that it had only received $800,000 (R11 million) in donations from Epstein, but records obtained by The New Yorker showed that Epstein had solicited at least $7.5 million (R111 million) in donations - even though he was listed as disqualified in the MIT official donor database.
The donations include a $2 million (R29 million) contribution from Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, per an internal email sent by Ito in October 2014. After Cohen said in a reply, "For gift recording purposes, we will not be mentioning Jeffrey's name as the impetus for this gift," the record filed within the university stated that "Gates is making this gift at the recommendation of a friend of his who wishes to remain anonymous."
A spokesperson for Gates told The New Yorker, "any claim that Epstein directed any programmatic or personal grantmaking for Bill Gates is completely false."
The donations secured by Epstein also included $5.5 million (R81 million) from billionaire investor Leon Black. Black declined to comment for the New Yorker story. Business Insider could not immediately reach Black through Apollo Global Management.
An August report from CNBC alleges Gates met with Epstein to discuss philanthropy in 2013. "Epstein never provided tax, estate or services of any kind to Bill Gates," a spokesperson for Gates said at the time.
Business Insider found that tax filings list Epstein as the director of the Leon Black Family Foundation from 2001 to 2012. The foundation said that Epstein resigned in 2007 and the tax documents were an error.
Epstein pleaded guilty to two state counts of soliciting prostitution in 2008, following a deal with the US Attorney of Miami. He spent 13 months in a county jail with work release allowing him to work from an office six days of the week. Following his time in jail and requirement to register as a sex offender, Epstein worked to re-enter New York society through philanthropy and connections to intellectuals and other wealthy families.
He was arrested in July of 2019 on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking in relation to an investigation into the alleged recruitment and abuse of underage girls. He pleaded not guilty.
Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 10. His death has been ruled a suicide.
The New Yorker spoke with a whistleblower Signe Swenson, who previously worked for the Media Lab as a development associate, and said she resigned in part over the Epstein ties in 2016. Her lawyer told The New Yorker, "Jeffrey Epstein shows that - with enough money - a convicted sex offender can open doors at the highest level of philanthropy."
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