Jeffrey Epstein threatened to expose an affair Bill Gates allegedly had with a Russian bridge player after the Microsoft co-founder declined to join his philanthropic venture, according to a report on Sunday.
The disgraced pedophile, who killed himself in 2019, appeared to threaten Gates over the alleged affair with Russian card whiz Mila Antonova in a 2017 email, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Gates met Antonova in 2010, with the two were playing in a tournament together after she moved to the Bay Area to work as a software engineer, the newspaper said.
While Antonova acknowledged that she was on friendly terms with Gates during a 2010 video about her love of bridge, the two allegedly had a brief romance while Gates was still married to his then-wife, Melinda French Gates, sources told the Journal.
Epstein, meanwhile, met Antonova while she was looking for financial backers for a bridge academy and later paid for her to attend software coding school, according to the report.
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The message came just after the tech titan declined to join the convicted sex offender’s multibillion-dollar charity he was trying to kick off with JPMorgan Chase, sources told the newspaper.
Gates, 67, has previously admitted to and expressed regret for having several meetings with Epstein in the 2010s — after Epstein’s 2008 conviction in Florida on charges of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution — as part of efforts to raise money for the Gates Foundation.
“Mr. Gates met with Epstein solely for philanthropic purposes. Having failed repeatedly to draw Mr. Gates beyond these matters, Epstein tried unsuccessfully to leverage a past relationship to threaten Mr. Gates,” a spokesperson for Gates said.
The spokesperson added that Gates never paid up over the threat and that he had “no financial dealings” with Epstein.
Antonova told the Journal that she didn’t know who Epstein really was when they met, thinking he was just a “successful businessman and wanted to help.”
“I am disgusted with Epstein and what he did,” Antonova said, while declining to comment on her alleged relationship with Gates.
Following her tournament match with Gates, which resulted in the billionaire’s victory, Antonova was inspired to start her own business venture teaching people to play the game she loved.
Boris Nikolic, a top adviser to Gates at the time, pointed Antonova to Epstein, then a well-connected financier, who agreed to meet her at his Manhattan townhouse in 2013, sources told the Journal.
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“I don’t know why he did that,” she told the Journal. “When I asked, he said something like, he was wealthy and wanted to help people when he could.”
Epstein also provided an apartment for her to stay at in New York City in November 2014. Antonova said she did not interact with Epstein or anyone else during the brief stay.
Following his sex-crimes conviction, Epstein appeared to be on damage control and hoped to create a multibillion-dollar charitable foundation with Gates headlining as a big-name donor, sources told the Journal.
Epstein allegedly dropped Gates’ name as he worked to secure the foundation with JPMorgan Chase, but Gates and the bank declined to work together with him.
The rejection triggered the email asking the billionaire to pay him back for Antonova’s studies, sources told the Journal, suggesting Epstein was attempting to blackmail Gates over the alleged relationship, which by then had been over for years.
Gates, Nikolic and JPMorgan Chase have said in statements that they regret ever meeting with Epstein on charitable matters.
“I deeply regret that I ever met Epstein,” Nikolic, who worked with Epstein on philanthropic proposals, told the Journal. “His crimes were despicable. I never saw anything like his illegal behavior. My heart goes out to his victims and their families.”
The alleged relationship with Antonova would be the second such affair Gates has been accused of engaging in during his 27-year marriage with Melinda.
In 2021, Gates acknowledged through a spokeswoman that he had an affair of almost 20 years with a Microsoft employee, a relationship the rep said “ended amicably” before Gates stepped down from the company to focus on his philanthropy.
Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw elaborated that the company’s board looked into the affair in 2019 after it received an email from an engineer.
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In the email, the woman demanded changes to her Microsoft job and also asked that Melinda read her letter revealing the affair.
The email triggered an investigation into Gates as calls for him to step down grew, but the mogul was still re-elected to Microsoft’s board before he left in 2020.
News of the affair came following multiple reports that Gates clumsily asked out several women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
It’s unclear how much Melinda knew about her husband’s alleged behavior.