Just the kind of independent journalism Kevin Rudd wants to stop.
An international scandal has engulfed former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s New York-based peace think-tank, with claims it had “close ties” to notorious paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and was given $US650,000 in donations from the child sex offender.
On Wednesday night, Mr Rudd said he had been “blindsided” when he learnt of Epstein’s donations to the International Peace Institute, of which he is the chairman.
He said the “revelations were deeply disturbing to me” and he had convened a special board meeting of the peace body, which works with the UN, to “ensure an equivalent sum was donated to sex assault victims”.
The former Labor leader also said he had convened another extraordinary board meeting of the IPI to order a review into further revelations that its president, Norwegian diplomat Terje Rod-Larsen, had a $US130,000 personal loan with Epstein.
“Any significant engagement with someone as odious as Epstein must be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly,” Mr Rudd said.
The former PM insisted he had no personal dealings with the now-dead paedophile.
“I have no recollection whatsoever of ever meeting Epstein,” he said.
And Mr Rudd also distanced himself from an IPI email that has surfaced authorising a $US100,000 payment to Epstein, based on a fee that Mr Rudd himself declined to take for giving advice to the Mongolian Government.
He said he never received any remuneration for his work with the IPI, which he joined in 2014 after losing office as the PM the year before.
“I first learned of contributions from Epstein’s foundations to the IPI in November 2019 through reporting by the Norwegian press.” Mr Rudd said.
“Subsequent searches by IPI staff, made at the request of the Board, have identified donations totalling $650,000 that were received between October 2011 and May 2019.
“The source of these donations had not previously been disclosed to the board, nor to me as chair.
“These revelations were deeply disturbing to me and to other members of the Board. IPI’s work includes combating human trafficking and sexual violence.’’
A year-long investigation by Norwegian newspaper Dagens Nærings into the ties between the peace organisation, the current president Terje Rod-Larsen and Epstein claimed Mr Rudd could have received a payment of $100,000 for advising Mongolia on security.
The paper published an email dated January 2016 from Mr Rod-Larsen titled “outstanding payments for Mongolia team”.
The email stated: “I had dinner with Kevin yesterday evening and he said we could keep his share.
“For forms (sic) sake we should send it to Jeff, however I am sure we will get it back many fold!”
Mr Rudd said he had checked his records around a function he had attended in New York in late September 2013, while still a member of parliament, to honour the Mongolian president.
Among the guests were many high level dignitaries including foreign ministers and UN officials, he said.
“IPI records indicate that Epstein was also invited to attend that same function, although I don’t believe we ever met,” Mr Rudd said.
He said at the event, held before he joined the IPI board, the Mongolian president asked him to help on an international advisory board to guide economic and political development.
“This advisory board had an initial conference call in January 2014,” Mr Rudd said.
“I participated in it and provided advice to the Mongolian President on the future of his country’s mining industry. There were no further meetings of which I am aware. IPI staff have advised me subsequently that Epstein was apparently among the 10 participants of the teleconference. Two years later, I was offered remuneration for my participation in this advisory board but I declined because my involvement, apart from the initial teleconference, was negligible.
“Other participants may have received remuneration for their participation in the advisory board, although I have been advised by IPI staff that Epstein did not.”
The IPI said the $100,000 fee never went to Epstein.
Mr Rudd also said he only discovered the existence of a $US130,000 personal loan agreement between Epstein and Mr Rod-Larsen from 2013, after Norwegian investigative journalists published the story on October 14.
“Neither the loan, nor its repayment, had been previously disclosed to the Board or to me as Chair,” he said.
“As a consequence of this latest development, I took action last week to convene an extraordinary Board meeting and requested that Mr Rod-Larsen provide a report to the Board on all these matters.
“I will be recommending to the Board that an immediate and comprehensive probity review be conducted into the matters raised. Mr Rod-Larsen has apologised to the board for what he has described as his grave error of judgment.”
The Norwegian paper said Mr Rod-Larsen visited Epstein at his Manhattan home at least 20 times.
Journalists from the Norwegian paper, who contacted The Daily Telegraph, said they had been trying in vain to get a response from Mr Rudd for more than a year.
The paper also revealed Epstein’s trusted assistant Lesley Groff sent an email to Mr Rod-Larsen in February 2014 mentioning a Mongolian meeting in the Swiss Alps town of Davos. The email stated: “Hi Terje, Jeffrey requested I send you the below wiring instructions for (the $100,000).’’