A prestigious foreign affairs think tank will direct $350,000 to fight human trafficking after acknowledging it received that amount in donations over the years from accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, announced the funding decision in an email to members that also acknowledged that Epstein had been a council member from 1995 to 2009.
The financier, who died by suicide in August in a Manhattan jail, had contributed $350,000 to the council, all of it over a 10-year period ending in 2005, “before his crimes or any other allegations against him became publicly known,” Haass' email, a copy of which NBC News obtained, said.
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“While the Council was not aware of Epstein’s behavior when we received these donations, we have concluded it would be right to do something,” Haass wrote.
The group has come under criticism for failing to revoke Epstein’s membership after he pleaded guilty in 2008 to state charges in Florida of procuring a person younger than 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution. He served a 13-month sentence in a Florida county jail and was granted a federal nonprosecution agreement.
Haass said in his email that although the money donated by Epstein was already spent “some 14 years ago,” the council would direct an equivalent sum to efforts to address human trafficking.
That includes giving $100,000 in total to two New York-based groups that work on the issue: Safe Horizon and Girls Educational and Mentoring Services. The council will also designate at least $250,000 to its own new project on human trafficking, Haass said.
“We want to use this situation as an opportunity to raise awareness of human trafficking and to improve U.S. and global efforts to combat it,” he wrote. “The project will look at ways to develop more robust legal standards and enforcement mechanisms to combat trafficking and to identify ways that the United States and other countries can work independently and collaboratively to detect, disrupt, and terminate trafficking operations.”
Epstein was arrested in July and charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking. He faced up to 45 years in prison if found guilty.
The indictment in his case alleged that he sought minors, some as young as 14, from at least 2002 through 2005 and paid them hundreds of dollars in cash for sex at either his Manhattan townhouse or his estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
He pleaded not guilty and was denied bail before he was found dead in his cell Aug. 10.