Convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein had financial ties to UBC, Buzzfeed reported last week.
In 2011, Epstein's foundation, Enhanced Education, donated $25,000 USD to the American Foundation of UBC.
His story has captured public fascination for his friendships with powerful figures like Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and others and for his long legal battle against the dozens of young women who have accused him sexual assault. The American financier was arrested on federal charges of sex trafficking in July and died by suicide while in prison a month later.
The donation came as news to the university, which had no knowledge of Epstein’s connection to Enhanced Education before being contacted by Buzzfeed.
“None of the documentation provided to the American Foundation of UBC, nor the university’s due diligence, indicated any links to Mr. Epstein,” wrote Kurt Heinrich, UBC’s senior director of media relations, in an emailed statement.
“Neither the Foundation nor the university had any interactions with him at any time.”
The institution that received the donation — the American Foundation of UBC — is a US-registered charity that allows donors in the states to send money and gifts to the university. It is a separate legal entity from the school.
This news is breaking as reporters are scrutinizing the dealings of Epstein before his imprisonment and eventual death in August. They found that Epstien regularly donated to scientists — sometimes upwards of a million dollars.
According to Heinrich, this money went to the Sea Around Us, a UBC-based research initiative that’s been running since 1999 and focuses on the ecological impact of fisheries.
Even in 2011, the time of his donation, Epstein had a criminal record, having served a 13-month sentence for soliciting a minor for prostitution back in 2008. His donation calls into question the screening process for donors employed by the school.
Such a process would fall under the office of Development and Alumni Engagement (DAE), which negotiates donations on behalf of UBC. Per UBC policy, extra care is taken with sensitive gifts, including those worth over $5 million, donations from notable individuals or donations that, according to Policy 114, “could compromise UBC’s public image, reputation or expose UBC to embarrassment.”
While the DAE missed the Epstein connection back in 2011, Heinrich noted that the tools used for screening donors are constantly improving.
“As with the rest of the technology industry, the breadth and depth of electronic research resources are rapidly expanding,” he said. “Accordingly, the quality of our research is continually improving and we are better able to conduct our duty of care to the university with each year.”
“The crimes Mr. Epstein was convicted of, and the later accusations, are abhorrent and the university would not have accepted the donation in 2011 if it had been aware of a link between him and Enhanced Education,” he added.