Two American billionaires and their shady deals with Israeli intelligence

  • Adam Bensaid
  • 9 Aug 2019

Sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and mercenary Erik Prince enjoy strong ties to the Israeli intelligence industry, while cutting sensitive business deals with Russia, China and the US

Photo Illustration by Adam Bensaid/TRT World/Getty Images ( TRTWorld )

Ties between the United States and Israel are set to experience deep turbulence as a recently jailed figure face suspicions for working with Israeli intelligence. 

The last time this took place, Jonathan Pollard, former US intelligence analyst, was found guilty of spying for Israel and providing it with top-secret information, leading to a life sentence under the Espionage Act.

Jeffery Epstein was arrested on July 6 for the sex trafficking of minors within the US.

The billionaire shared the same personal network that included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, infamous Blackwater founder Erik Prince, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton.

US President Donald Trump previously referred to Epstein as a “terrific guy”.

But this isn’t the first time Epstein has been charged for underage sex crimes. 

Between 2002 and 2005, according to a federal indictment, Epstein paid dozens of girls and young women to take part in sex acts with him at his residences in New York and Florida.

In 2007 and 2008, the FBI readied a 53-page indictment to bring him down on sex charges, which was brought to a standstill when he was offered a plea deal with US Attorney Alexander Acosta.

The deal, which remains a state secret, put Epstein in jail for 13 months, but left him able to leave six days a week, for up to 12 hours a day, to work.

Acosta would later be named labour secretary by Trump; and has since resigned his position.

However, according to investigative journalist Vicky Ward, quoting a meeting with Trump’s transition team, Acosta told a White House official: “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone.” 

The question remains, would the US intelligence community have allowed a sexual predator who strongly believed in eugenics to operate a sex trafficking operation for minors for years on American soil? Most would believe otherwise.

After deep scrutiny, a shifting network of power surrounding Epstein is revealed. 

Deep Ties

Epstein worked closely with Israel, at the forefront of a private initiative to bring cutting edge Israeli military intelligence technology to the private sector, available to the highest bidder.

This single company, Carbyne, brought together a who’s who of power brokers and intelligence figures from multiple regions including Russia, China and the Trump administration itself, with Epstein at its heart. 

Officially, Carbyne provided high-tech solutions for emergency centres. In reality, it existed in a grey area giving it unprecedented access to private information, with significant potential for privacy abuse.

Carbyne provides a service for police emergency centres, providing complete access to the caller’s camera and GPS, providing the dispatcher with a live video feed.

But Carbyne’s shareholders have drawn skepticism, leading many to question Epstein’s ties to questionable figures. 

Operating beyond any nation’s complete oversight, Carbyne had no restrictions to transfer technology to autocratic leaders that regularly violate human rights.

The Chinese Connection

Carbyne’s technology is speculated to have been transferred to China through co-founder Lital Leshem, who is a shareholder at Carbyne. 

She also works with Erik Prince at Frontier Resources Group (FRG), based in the United Arab Emirates, and a subsidiary of the Chinese-majority owned Frontier Services Group (FSG).

Prince, the founder of Frontier Services Group, previously known as Blackwater, helped the United Arab Emirates train a South American mercenary army to fight for the Saudi-UAE coalition war in Yemen for $529 million. 

But how did China benefit from Prince’s ties to Carbyne?

In 2013, Prince sold a majority share of FSG to the Chinese. His new overseer, billionaire Chang Xhenming, is particularly close to Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

Not long after, FSG was involved in China’s crackdown on Muslim communities, helping build facilities to detain one million people and putting 13 million under surveillance. In particular, FSG was slated to help build the notorious ‘re-training camps’ to hold ethnic Uyghurs and Muslims.

Human Rights Watch revealed that Chinese authorities began to use an application much like Carbyne to surveil Uyghurs. Carbyne’s first 911 surveillance contract was installed in Fayette County in the US state of Georgia in 2018, the same time China’s nearly identical mass surveillance was launched.

Unlike the limited use Carbyne’s 911 application saw in the US to report emergencies, China’s ‘Integrated Joint Operations Platform’ was a highly similar app for mass surveillance. 

The Chinese surveillance app monitors every aspect of a user’s life, including personal conversations, power usage, activating the camera and microphone, and even tracking a user’s movement. 

According to Human Rights Watch, which reverse engineered the app, suspicion could fall on someone for “saying something religious”, or even exiting their house by the back door, which is seen as more suspicious. 

If Carbyne’s technology was transferred through its shareholder and Erik Prince employee Litai Lesham, it would hardly mark the first time China benefited from third-party technology companies in implementing mass surveillance technology. 

From the US to the UAE, only to end up in China

DarkMatter, a UAE surveillance and intelligence group employing former NSA operatives was built on the back of a larger initiative to modernise Emirati intelligence and military operations. 

The group took part in at the Arab Future Cities Conference in November 2015, where it presented a vision of smarter, tech-driven cities, which caught the eye of Chinese officials. Smarter cities meant Big Brother-esque widespread surveillance installed throughout the UAE.  

Only two years later in April 25 2017, DarkMatter signed a Global Strategic Memorandum of Understanding with Huawei, a leading Chinese company, for the same ‘Big Data’ systems and ‘Smart City’ solutions. 

The middle man? None other than Erik Prince, who had gone from working for the Emiratis, to working for a Chinese billionaire. 

In suspect timing, the Memorandum of Understanding also took place right before China scaled up its total surveillance and crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang, China.

With similar technology being used, and the same mercenary middle-man between Carbyne and China who brought together UAE’s DarkMatter surveillance technology with China, indications point to a likely transfer of surveillance technology from Epstein’s Israeli company to China.

Who’s behind Carbyne?

Epstein’s alleged connection to Israeli intelligence is given substance by the deep ties he held with the Israeli military and intelligence communities. 

Chief among the co-founders of Carbyne is former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, who has ties connecting him to Epstein for nearly 17 years. 

In 2014, Epstein invested $1.5 million in a joint venture with Barak, which would later fund Carbyne.

Barak, as former Israeli leader, also has deep ties to Israeli intelligence. The former general faced charges of war crimes, but escaped arrest due diplomatic immunity. But even Barak is only the tip of the iceberg.

Amir Elichai, another Israeli shareholder, was a distinguished member of Israel’s elite military intelligence group. 

Pinchas Berkus, a former Brigadier General of the elite 8200 unit, was part of the Israeli Intelligence Corps responsible for signals intelligence and decryption, until he came to serve in Carbyne as a company director.

Leshem, a previously mentioned co-founder, worked for Black Cube before going to work for Prince, and is still a reservist in the Israeli Defence Force. 

Finally, Alex Dizengof, Carbyne’s Chief Technology Officer, was responsible for cybersecurity in Israel's Prime Minister’s office.

Israeli ties notwithstanding, the Carbyne investor and advisory board brought strong ties to the US military-industrial complex.

Michael Chertoff, who ran Homeland Security under former president George W. Bush, serves on Carbyne’s advisory board. Chertoff wrote the Patriot Act, which authorised sweeping digital surveillance of Americans.

Peter Thiel, one of the founders of Paypal, Facebook and Palantir, is also a Carbyne investor. 

Thiel is an avid Trump supporter, and is heavily invested in military and intelligence companies. Thiel’s Palantir is described as making use of “war on terror tools to track American citizens”.

Trae Stephens, another co-founder of Palantir, is on Carbyne’s advisory board. Stephens also served as the head of Trump’s Department of Defense transition team. 

Even though the company allegedly provides emergency response services, none of the directors or advisory board members have a background in emergency response systems. Instead, all have deep ties to Israel’s intelligence services or the United States’ military-industrial complex.

National Subversion

Newsweek identified Israeli espionage within the US as a significant and growing threat going back to 2013. Following the sentencing of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard to life for espionage in 1985, this marks a controversial trend, that one former congressional staffer described as “terrifying”.

Given that Epstein spent only 13 months in jail for what appears to be a 38-year crime-spree, how did Epstein evade justice? 

The answer may lie in a gentlemen’s agreement shaping the Israeli-US intelligence relationship. Essentially, spies can operate with impunity when both countries agree on the same security objectives. 

With a technology and espionage sector rife with criminals like Epstein, Chinese and Russian oligarch investors; there is more than meets the eye to Israel’s intelligence. More critically, its security industry may be more compromised and unrestricted than the rest of the world is able to recognise. 

For nations not in the know, it could mean their security and privacy. For authoritarian leaders, the no-qualms approach Israel offers could be the opportunity of a lifetime.