By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer for the U.S. Virgin Islands said on Thursday that JPMorgan Chase told U.S. authorities it processed more than $1 billion for Jeffrey Epstein over 16 years.
JPMorgan reported the transactions as suspicious to the U.S. Treasury Department following Epstein's suicide in 2019, Mimi Liu, a lawyer for the territory, said at a hearing concerning its lawsuit against the largest U.S. bank.
Reuters did not view the bank's disclosures to the Treasury, which are not public. A JPMorgan spokesperson declined to comment.
Epstein had been a JPMorgan client from 1998 to 2013, when the bank fired him. The disgraced financier had been awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges at the time of his death.
The U.S. Virgin Islands, where Epstein owned two private islands, is suing JPMorgan for at least $190 million and likely much more, saying it ignored red flags that Epstein was running a sex trafficking operation because he was a lucrative client.
JPMorgan has denied knowing that Epstein was running a sex trafficking operation, and has faulted the territory for having a cozy relationship with him.
Liu mentioned the $1 billion amount, which had not been previously disclosed, in arguing that U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan should find before the case goes to trial that the bank participated in Epstein's sex trafficking.
She said no reasonable juror could find that JPMorgan was in the dark about its jet-setting client.
"JPMorgan was a full service bank for Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking," Liu said.
Felicia Ellsworth, a lawyer for JPMorgan, said it was not appropriate for the judge to determine the question of the bank's knowledge before trial, because current and former employees have testified that they were unaware of Epstein's sex trafficking.
She said JPMorgan notified the Treasury Department at least six times about Epstein's transactions, including as early as 2002.
Ellsworth also disputed the U.S. Virgin Islands' claim that JPMorgan obstructed investigations into Epstein, saying the bank had asked federal authorities about their own probes into his conduct.
That is "the polar opposite of trying to obstruct," she said.
An Oct. 23 trial is scheduled. Rakoff said he would decide by the end of September whether to resolve major legal disputes sooner.
In June, Rakoff preliminarily approved JPMorgan's $290 million settlement with women who say Epstein abused them.
Deutsche Bank, where Epstein was a client from 2013 to 2018, had earlier reached a $75 million settlement with his accusers.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)