Crown Princess Mette-Marit publicly apologized on Monday for having had several meetings with the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Norway’s Royal Palace finally confirmed the meetings to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), which also has revealed how Epstein donated large amounts of money to the International Peace Institute in New York that’s run by former Norwegian diplomat Terje Rød-Larsen.
DN has been looking into Norwegian connections to Epstein, who was found dead in his jail cell in Manhattan on August 10. The wealthy 66-year-old had been arrested the month before on new sex trafficking charges, more than a decade after an earlier conviction of having solicited sex with a minor. Last summer he was accused of having run a “vast network” of underage girls for sex.
Epstein was also known for his social relations with powerful figures including US President Donald Trump, who told New York magazine in 2002 that Epstein was “a terrific guy” who was “fun to be with. It is even been said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Trump has since tried to distance himself from Epstein, whose ties to Britain’s Prince Andrew recently resulted in the prince being suspended from all royal duties. The prince recently told the BBC that he had severed ties to Epstein in 2010, shortly after Epstein was released from prison.
Now Norway’s Royal Palace has confirmed Crown Princess Mette-Mette’s ties to Epstein, 11 days after DN first submitted questions to the palace after having been told she had “a relation” to the shamed financier. Now she’s admitted that she met Epstein on several occasions between 2011 and 2013. Epstein had been convicted in 2008 after confessing to soliciting prostitution from an underage girl through a complicated plea bargain agreement with federal officials. He served 13 months in prison.
“I would never have had anything to do with Epstein if I’d been aware of how serious his criminal acts were,” Crown Princess Mette-Marit claimed in a written statement sent from the palace to DN. “I should have examined Epstein’s past more closely, and I’m sorry I didn’t do that.”
DN reported that the two were introduced to one another through a mutual acquaintance abroad who was not immediately identified. Palace officials reportedly told DN that the meetings between Epstein and the crown princess occurred in social settings, mostly in the US. One meeting was in Norway.
“One of the meetings was at Epstein’s home,” Guri Varpe, communications chief at the Royal Palace, told DN. Epstein had several homes, in New York, Florida and Paris. The palace wouldn’t specify which home the crown princess visited.
“In addition,” stated Varpe, “the crown princess had a brief meeting with Epstein once when he was in Oslo.” Crown Prince Mette-Marit and her husband, Crown Prince Haakon, also reportedly “met Epstein on the street,” according to Varpe, when they were on holiday in St Barts in 2012. “Then Crown Prince Haakon greeted Epstein for the first and only time.” Varpe specified that other people were present at all of the crown princess’ meetings with Epstein.
Neither the crown princess nor Crown Prince Haakon were aware of Epstein’s background, according to Varpe. “At the time the crown princess had contact with Epstein, she didn’t know about the extent and character of the criminal acts he had admitted to and served time for,” Varpe told DN. “The crown princess did not of course know about the offenses that were later revealed either.”
She reportedly cut contact with the billionaire Epstein in 2013. “The crown princess chose to end her contact with Epstein, because she had the impression among other things that Epstein tried to use the connection he’d had with the crown princess in regards to other people,” Varpe said. The palace declined to answer several follow-up questions from DN.
Now the crown princess regrets her association with Epstein. “Through my longtime work with international health issues, I have seen the great damage that sexual assault does to children and women,” Crown Princess Mette-Marit stated. “We all share responsibility to fight sexual assault and support victims, and I want to express my deep sympathy and solidarity with the victims of the assaults Jeffrey Epstein has carried out.”
Former diplomat mum on Epstein’s donations
Epstein also donated millions of dollars to various universities and organizations, many of which have since distanced themselves from him or expressed regrets. DN has reported that among the organizations receiving donations from Epstein’s philanthropic foundation, Gratitude America, was the New York-based International Peace Institute (IPI). DN reported that IPI, led by the former Norwegian diplomat Terje Rød-Larsen, received USD 375,000 in 2017 and USD 225,000 in 2016.
IPI makes no mention of the money from Epstein in its own documents and reports, but it shows up in tax reports filed by Gratitude America. IPI was also listed as among the largest beneficiaries, according to DN, with Rød-Larsen’s IPI receiving twice as much as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). DN noted that those responsible for receiving Epstein’s money at MIT resigned in September because they had not revealed the source of his donations.
Press releases from The Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation issued from 2010 to 2013, around the time of his association with Crown Princess Mette-Marit, also reported financial support to IPI’s launch of a new office in Bahrain. Rød-Larsen, who is married to Norway’s ambassador to the UN Mona Juul, is described as having been a “prominent” diplomat in the Middle East. DN tracked down old records showing IPI as a recipient of Epstein’s donations, even though no mention is made of them in IPI’s own records.
Epstein’s money to be given away
Rød-Larsen, who also briefly served as a government minister for the Labour Party has refused to answer questions about the donations from Epstein, as have others at IPI. Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide of the Conservative Party asked IPI to reconsider how it’s handling Epstein’s engagement in IPI, not least since the ministry itself has been a donor to IPI.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently became aware that IPI accepted financing from one of the foundations of the late Jeffrey Epstein,” Søreide told DN. “We have noticed that other recipients of money from Epstein’s foundations have chosen to donate (it) to a good cause. It’s natural for the board of IPI to evaluate whether they will pay such a sum to good causes as other organizations have done.”
IPI ended up, late last month, sending a press release to DN in which it wrote that it had decided to give away the same amount of money it received from Epstein. The press release read that IPI had reached its conclusion after “an internal evaluation.” There remains no mention of Jeffrey Epstein on IPI’s website, and Terje Rød-Larsen, unlike Crown Princess Mette-Marit, still hasn’t answered any of DN‘s questions.