Facing what he claims was “a campaign of extortion” by an ex-girlfriend who has accused him of rape, billionaire Leon Black has said he discussed it only with his lawyers, his family, and four other people.
One of them was Jeffrey Epstein, according to a sworn statement by Black, co-founder of Apollo Global Management, that was filed in a New York state court on Tuesday.
The disclosure adds a new dimension to what is known of the relationship between Black and Epstein, the paedophile who hanged himself in jail two years ago while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking.
Black paid Epstein $158m for advice on matters including tax, art transactions and the management of his yacht and private plane, according to a report by Dechert, the international law firm. Black quit his leadership positions at Apollo last March.
The new court filing also places Epstein inside a close circle to whom Black confided about the secret payments he was making to a woman who has accused him, in a civil lawsuit, of raping her and then paying millions of dollars to secure her silence.
Black has acknowledged paying $9m to Guzel Ganieva since 2015, when she signed a “release and confidentiality agreement” at a meeting at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York that he secretly recorded.
Ganieva’s lawyers have said their client was forced to “take his hush money and retreat into silence forever”. Black’s lawyers say he is the victim of “a criminal extortion scheme”.
A discovery request submitted by Ganieva’s lawyers asked the billionaire to provide a list of people with whom he had discussed the confidentiality agreement. In a response that bears his signature and was submitted under penalty of perjury, Black named just three people: a private investigator at Nardello & Co, Epstein and Ganieva herself.
Black’s written statement said that, in addition to those three people, he had discussed Ganieva’s alleged “extortion” threats with another private investigator and with Brad Wechsler, the head of Black’s personal investment vehicle. He added that he was not naming members of his family or lawyers who were covered by attorney-client privilege.
Ganieva is seeking unspecified monetary damages against Black for defamation, infliction of emotional distress and “gender-motivated violence”.
Lawyers for Black have branded Ganieva’s lawsuit “a work of fiction”. The billionaire has countered with a lawsuit of his own, accusing Ganieva and her attorneys at the Wigdor law firm of colluding with an unidentified financial backer to abuse the legal system in an effort to defame Black and commit blackmail, extortion, and fraud.
Black’s lawyers have also asked a court to prevent Ganieva from adding sections to her claim that “serve no purpose other than to impermissibly smear Mr Black by association with Epstein: the insinuation simply is that because Epstein was a bad guy, Mr Black must be a bad guy”.
In a motion filed on Tuesday, Ganieva’s lawyers said Black’s statements during early discovery “put to lie [his] claim that any allegations concerning Epstein are irrelevant”. The new sworn statement from Black was filed as an exhibit alongside the motion.
A spokesman for Black said that motion should never have been filed. “The unauthorised filing by Ms Ganieva’s lawyers is nothing more than another desperate attempt to smear Mr Black’s reputation and divert attention away from Ms Ganieva’s crimes,” the spokesman said.
Jeanne Christensen, a partner at Wigdor who represents Ganieva, countered that Black’s lawyers were the ones who filed the motion to which her firm was responding.
“He can withdraw [the motion] of course,” she added. “Otherwise we will aggressively oppose it, which is what we are doing.”