The financier faced charges that he recruited and abused dozens of underage girls in the early 2000s. The FBI and the US Justice Department are investigating Epstein's death.
American billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, who faced charges of sex trafficking of minors, killed himself in his prison cell on Saturday, various US media reported, citing officials.
US newspaper The New York Times reported that Epstein had hanged himself in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, and that his body was found around 7:30 a.m. local time (1100 UTC).
Epstein had been found in his cell in late July with marks on his neck. According to The Associated Press, it was not clear at the time whether the wounds were self-inflicted or if there had been an assault. AP and Reuters news agency reported that Epstein was not on suicide watch before his death.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Justice Department are both investigating the "apparent suicide," federal authorities said. US Attorney General Anthony Barr said in a statement that Epstein's death "raises questions that must be answered."
His request to be released on bail while awaiting trial was rejected by a judge in late July.
Allegations of sex trafficking
The 66-year-old was arrested on July 6 and indicted on charges of having trafficked dozens of underage girls — some as young as 14 — for sex, allegedly paying them hundreds of dollars for massages prior to molesting them at his homes in Florida and New York between 2002 and 2005.
Epstein had pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, he would have faced a maximum of sentence of up to 45 years in prison, essentially the rest of his life.
Prosecutors said the evidence against the 66-year-old included a "vast trove" of inappropriate photographs of young girls.
The day before he was found dead, court records pertaining to a defamation lawsuit in 2016 were released. They showed that in order to avoid incriminating himself, Epstein refused to answer questions about the allegations that he organized a sex trafficking ring.
Epstein's lawyers described the case as a "redo" of one heard more than a decade ago. In 2008, Epstein had pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida.
Epstein moved in high-profile social circles, counting US President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton among his friends and acquaintances.
The accusations and pending trial made headlines around the world and sparked separate investigations into how authorities handled the 2008 Epstein case.
In mid-July, then US Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta resigned following pressure related to his time as a public prosecutor for the state of Florida. In this position, Acosta oversaw the 2008 plea deal with Epstein that was criticized for being too lenient.
Epstein admitted to one state charge of soliciting prostitution of a minor in exchange for registering as a sex offender and serving 13 months in prison.
cmb/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters)
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