According to The Wall Street Journal, Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire financier and convicted paedophile, allegedly used knowledge of an affair between Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and a Russian bridge player to threaten Gates. Epstein became aware of the affair when the woman involved was in her twenties and used this information to leverage Gates, one of the world's wealthiest individuals.
Gates and the woman met around 2010, while Epstein encountered her in 2013 and funded her enrollment in a software coding school. In 2017, Epstein emailed Gates, requesting reimbursement for the coding course and implying he could expose the affair if Gates severed their association. Gates' spokesperson stated that their meetings were solely for philanthropy, and Epstein's attempt to exploit their past relationship was unsuccessful.
Epstein had faced accusations of sexually abusing underage girls since 2006. He pleaded guilty in 2008, served time in jail, and became a registered sex offender. Arrested on sex trafficking charges in 2019, Epstein died in jail awaiting trial, ruled as suicide.
Gates, a 67-year-old co-founder of Microsoft, admitted to meeting Epstein to discuss philanthropy but considered it a mistake. Epstein claimed to have connections to potential donors for Gates Foundation, focused on global health initiatives. Gates cut ties with Epstein, acknowledging their meetings didn't yield desired outcomes.
The alleged Russian bridge player involved was identified as Mila Antonova. Antonova didn't comment but expressed unawareness of Epstein's crimes when they met, believing him to be a successful businessman wanting to help. Epstein sought connections but turned against them when relationships soured. Gates had over twelve scheduled meetings with Epstein in 2011, including dinners at Epstein's New York townhouse and a flight on his private jet.
In September 2014, Gates and Epstein spent a significant part of a day together in New York City, meeting other billionaires. Gates, an avid bridge player, shared this interest with Antonova, who founded a bridge club and worked as a software engineer.
Antonova sought funding for her online bridge teaching business, meeting Epstein through Boris Nikolic, a confidant and science adviser to Gates who also knew Epstein. When funding attempts failed, Antonova sought a loan for a programming course, which Epstein covered directly. Epstein also had meetings with Nathan Myhrvold, a Microsoft executive. Nikolic regretted associating with Epstein and expressed sympathy for his victims.