December 2019: Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Nobel Committee, had a question for the members of the committee. Queried by the Norwegian business daily DN, she asked whether they had ever had contact with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender and well-connected financier.
Former chair Thorbjørn Jagland, by now a regular member of the committee, was among those answering no.
It turns out the answer was indeed yes.
Not only did Jagland meet Epstein, he hosted him at his lavish residence in Strasbourg, France. At the time, Jagland was the sitting chair of the committee, which awards the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Also present: a philanthropist touted as a possible Prize recipient.
One of the richest men of the world
As the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Jagland had his own residence, able to host several hundred guests. On the afternoon of March 27, 2013, Jagland entertained a small but exclusive group of very famous people.
One of those attending was Bill Gates, at the time the second wealthiest man in the world and head of the largest charitable foundation in the world. Since leaving Microsoft a few years prior, Gates had become a dedicated philanthropist. Having invested heavily to eradicate polio, he was among those mentioned as possible candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.
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Also present were representatives of the think tank International Peace Institute (IPI), who later that year partnered with Gates’ foundation in the fight against polio.
In addition to Gates and his assistants, another financier was also present. A person well-known for his network of powerful people, but also accused of participating in trafficking and sexual abuse.
A convicted sex offender, why was Jeffrey Epstein present in Strasbourg?
Several million dollars
The Norwegian Business Daily (DN) has spoken to a number of sources familiar with the meeting in Strasbourg, and has reviewed documentation that ties Epstein to the meeting.
According to the sources, Gates and his assistants were already present when the representatives of IPI arrived. Epstein, who knew Gates, was the person who introduced the billionaire to IPI.
The meeting, in which IPI introduced Gates to a polio eradication project, was to be very fruitful. Later the same year, Gates’ foundation granted IPI 2.5 million dollars. Since then, an addition 6 million dollars has followed, according to the foundation. The most recent grant was earlier this year, an additional 250,000 dollars.
The meeting took place in March 2013, several years after Epstein pleaded guilty to charges of soliciting a prostitute – a minor – as well as paying compensation to a number of women. According to the Miami Herald, a federal investigation identified at least 36 victims.
As early as 2006, as the investigation of Epstein was under way, some politicians had returned money from Epstein. Later, in 2011, the British Prince Andrew was criticised for maintaining his friendship with Epstein. Last year, Prince Andrew stated he had shown “poor judgment.”
Despite the verdict, Epstein managed to re-enter the elite after serving his sentence. Last year, The New York Times reported that he kept being included among the powerful of New York City. Anchor Katie Kouric and Woody Allen attended dinner at his home in 2010. The following year he attended a party together with, among others, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, founders of Amazon and Tesla respectively. Several notable institutions praised him and boasted of his achievements, including the prestigious Harvard University.
Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway met Epstein several times between 2011 and 2013. Last year, she apologised for not having scrutinised his past more thoroughly. Former prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik of Norway met Epstein at a dinner party in 2013, but declined to pursue funding from Epstein having found out about Epstein’s past in a Google search.
Epstein had been suspected of a larger number of crimes than was included in his plea deal. Last year, he was arrested in the US, charged with further crimes of trafficking and abuse. He was never put on trial, as he died in August 2019, shortly after being taken into custody. The coroners found he took his own life.
Jagland: Gates and Epstein arrived together
Last fall, DN published a number of articles on the connections between Epstein’s Norwegian contacts and IPI. The Norwegian Auditor General has since then opened an investigation into the relationship between the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the think tank. IPI, which has received grants surpassing 130 million Norwegian kroner, has several connections to Epstein.
During the last year, DN has asked Jagland a number of questions regarding his association with Epstein.
“There was no connection, of a financial or any other nature, to the Council of Europe. Any other Norwegian connections, which I understand the article will be about, I have no knowledge of,” he wrote in an email November 11, 2019.
After several inquiries this last week regarding new information about the encounter, Jagland confirmed that Gates and Epstein attended an official meeting at his residence in March 2013. According to him, Gates and Epstein arrived together.
“They came to my Residence with their respective delegations. Bill Gates and Epstein arrived together, followed by the others. I made an introduction on the European system for controlling medicines. After that, the conversation advanced further,” Jagland writes in an email.
Epstein was not an active participant in the meeting, according to the former prime minister, explaining:
“Bill Gates asked for a meeting as he visited Strasbourg. He was interested in the Council of Europe’s work to safeguard medicines for everyone. The Council of Europe, carries a very important international convention on this issue, and counterfeit medicines are a big problem,” Jagland writes.
Many countries outside Europe have joined the convention, which embraces the institution European Pharmacopeia.
“350 people are at work in one of the world’s most modern laboratories, and all medicines in Europe are manufactured on the basis of standards from this laboratory. Bill Gates and IPI had entered a collaboration to provide polio vaccines to the vulnerable tribal areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They wanted to learn from Europe,” Jagland writes.
At the time, IPI didn’t have a relationship with Gates. The first grant came a few months later, in October 2013. One month earlier, Bill and his wife Melinda Gates attended an IPI event, speaking about the foundations work to fight polio.
In December 2019, DN asked the chair of the Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, if any member had had contact with Epstein at any time. Having asked them, she answered that among others, Jagland had never been in contact with Epstein.
“I passed DN’s questions to Jagland and he answered in the negative on any contact with Epstein. Yesterday, Jagland explained there was a misunderstanding, which I accept. Naturally, it’s unfortunate that I gave an answer that turns out not to be correct,” Reiss-Andersen writes Wednesday.
She adds that “it is obviously unfortunate that DN was misinformed.”
Jagland explains the omission to Reiss-Andersen as follows:
“When answering Berit Reiss-Andersen in December last year, I had in mind DN’s crazy and absurd conspiracy theory that I had had dinner with this person in Paris in June. There might have been a misunderstanding, which I take full responsibility for, and apologise.”
At that time, DN had asked Jagland repeatedly if he ever had met Epstein, including in Paris in 2019.
The Gates Foundation
DN has presented the Gates Foundation with a number of questions.
“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works with the International Peace Institute, an organisation dedicated to promoting peace and security, to gather critical analysis that supports our efforts to improve health in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” the communications department wrote in an email Friday.
And following new inquiries:
“The foundation has never had any financial dealings with Epstein. We work with the International Peace Institute, a grantee that supports our efforts to improve health in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
Lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein’s estate have failed to respond to DN’s inquiries.
The polio partnership between Gates and the International Peace Institute still exists. Jagland writes that it has “saved thousands of people living in the most impassable parts of the world.”
“I believe it is of great value to make this contribution, given Europe’s involvement in the area.”
IPI has several links to Epstein, including through a donation of 375,000 dollars from one of his foundations. Several press releases from Epstein’s organisations are about the partnership with the think tank.
Questions sent repeatedly to IPI president Rød-Larsen about his relationship to Epstein have gone unanswered.
Rød-Larsen did not attend the meeting in Strasbourg, but he is a known acquaintance of Jagland. The two have been friends for several decades, and Rød-Larsen was named a cabinet secretary by Jagland in 1996. When Jagland became ill during a leadership dispute in the Norwegian Labour Party in 2002, he stayed with Rød-Larsen and his spouse Mona Juul. At the time, Jagland presented them as “our best friends” in a newspaper interview.
Neither president Terje Rød-Larsen, nor IPI’s communications department have responded to questions for this story.
According to Jagland, the Gates meeting came about due the Council of Europe’s work with vaccines, but according to Council of Europe head of communications, Daniel Holtgen, he was not aware of the meeting when DN first asked.
“I have no knowledge of this meeting and hence if it happened it was not official Council of Europe business,” he wrote in an email.
After seeing Jagland’s statement, Holtgen writes that the statement it is true, but Holtgen was not involved.
Jagland adds that Gates also met with President of the European Commission with the same agenda, in Strasbourg.
Met thousands of people
Jagland has not answered questions on whether he has met Epstein besides the meeting in Strasbourg. At an Labor party event celebrating Jagland in November 2019:
“Have you met Epstein?”
“I don’t have anything to say as I have met thousands of people the last ten years, got to know hundreds and been to hundreds of dinners.”
He added that “I have a principle, and if I break that, I open up to everything else as well.”
“I have met thousands of people and got to know hundreds, and I don’t want to talk about any of them, as I have not received permission from them to do so,” said Jagland.
When asked again whether he has met Epstein more than that one time, and what he makes of having received a sex offender in Strasbourg, Jagland says:
“I have answered as to what kind of meeting this was. Bill Gates asked for it and explained why. He brought other people, including from IPI. I didn’t have a routine of assessing the companions of the people I had meetings with.”
Jagland adds that he is working on the second volume of his memoirs, where he will describe his relevant international contacts and interests.
DN has asked Jagland if he sees an issue with the chair of the Nobel Committee inviting a possible Nobel Peace Prize laureate into his home. Jagland states in an email that “Bill Gates was not nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.”
According to the Nobel Committee, the foundation is unable to comment as the names of those nominated for the Prize is kept secret for 50 years.
“It is contrary to our statutes to comment on who is nominated each year,” the current leader, Berit Reiss-Andersen, writes in an email.
She avoids commenting directly on Jagland’s meeting with Gates:
“In the Nobel Committee, we have internal rules that says that all members themselves must make notice of any incapacities or other matters considered important for the decision-making process. I cannot share anything from any discussions we may have had,” writes Reiss-Andersen.
Jagland says he has not shared secrets from the Nobel Committee:
“My notion that Bill Gates was not nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 was based on publicly available information. As you know, every year the most likely candidates get known as soon as the list is finished in February/March. That list was similar to the formal list, also that year.”
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