Jeffrey Epstein's lawyers offered an unusual explanation for a passport found in his home with his photo and a different name on it, saying he obtained the travel document years ago to ward off "kidnappers, hijackers and terrorists."
"The passport was for personal protection in the event of travel to dangerous areas, only to be presented to potential kidnappers, hijackers or terrorists should violent episodes occur," his lawyers wrote in court papers Tuesday, saying that Epstein's Jewish faith and ample finances made him a target in the Middle East.
Federal prosecutors revealed the existence of the passport at a Monday bail hearing, arguing that it demonstrated Epstein was a flight risk and should remain behind bars. The prosecutors said the expired passport was issued in the 1980s and indicated that Epstein was living in Saudi Arabia.
In the court papers filed Tuesday, Epstein’s lawyers said the travel document came from Austria and had expired 32 years ago.
"The government offers nothing to suggest — and certainly no evidence — that Epstein ever used it," his lawyers said. "In any case, Epstein — an affluent member of the Jewish faith — acquired the passport in the 1980s, when hijackings were prevalent, in connection to Middle East travel."
Epstein, 66, is facing up to 45 years in prison if convicted on charges of operating a sex trafficking ring and preying on underage girls as young as 14. He has pleaded not guilty.
His lawyers have requested that he be allowed to remain at his $77 million Manhattan home with electronic monitoring as the case proceeds.
At the Monday bail hearing, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman that, in addition to the passport, federal agents found piles of cash and dozens of diamonds inside a safe in his townhouse.
In court papers filed Tuesday, the prosecutors detailed the discovery: $70,000 in cash and 48 loose diamonds ranging from 1 to 2.38 carats.
"Such ready cash and loose diamonds are consistent with the capability to leave the jurisdiction at a moment’s notice," prosecutors say.
Berman is slated to decide on Epstein's bail request Thursday.
The wealthy financier was facing similar allegations in 2007 when he signed a controversial non-prosecution deal in Florida that allowed him to dodge the prospect of a long federal prison sentence.
Epstein ultimately pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting minors for prostitution, and served a 13-month sentence in a Florida county jail. He was also ordered to pay restitution to his victims and register as a sex offender.
Former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney in Miami at the time, stepped down last week after the new charges ignited fresh criticism of his handling of the decade-old case.