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Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates met with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein multiple times starting in 2011, The New York Times reported, revealing a closer connection between the two billionaires than previously known.

Gates told The Wall Street Journal last month that he “didn’t have any business relationship or friendship” with Epstein, who committed suicide in prison in August while facing charges of sex trafficking of minors. That came after reports of a purported connection between Gates and Epstein to provide funding to a prominent MIT research program.

According to the new details via The NYT, Gates reportedly visited Epstein’s Manhattan mansion at least three times — after Epstein was convicted of sex crimes. Gates Foundation employees also met with Epstein, who had pitched a plan for a charitable fund for health projects backed with Gates Foundation dollars, NYT reported. Gates also rode on Epstein’s private plane in 2013, though a Gates spokesperson said he wasn’t aware of that fact.

Here’s a full statement from a Gates spokesperson, sent to GeekWire:

‘”Multiple high-profile people suggested that Bill meet with Epstein because he made claims of being able to bring “hundreds of billions of dollars” into philanthropy based on his status as an agent and advisor to wealthy individuals with respect to their giving strategies. Given the prospect of helping catalyze significant increases in charitable giving, Bill Gates met with Epstein and others multiple times to discuss philanthropy and the work of his foundation. Although Epstein pursued Gates aggressively, Gates had absolutely no business partnership or personal friendship with Epstein. Gates never socialized with Epstein or attended parties with him. It’s become clear that Epstein misrepresented the nature of his meetings with Gates while also working to insert himself behind-the-scenes without Gates’s knowledge. Over time, Gates and his team realized Epstein’s capabilities and ideas were not legitimate and all contact with Epstein was discontinued.

Bill Gates regrets ever meeting with Epstein and recognizes it was an error in judgement to do so. Gates recognizes that entertaining Epstein’s ideas related to philanthropy gave Epstein an undeserved platform that was at odds with Gates’s personal values and the values of his foundation.” — Gates spokesperson

Gates is one of several high net worth and powerful individuals who had connections with Epstein.

The Gates Foundation is focused on gender equality and supporting young women. Melinda Gates, through her standalone Pivotal Ventures firm, this month pledged $1 billion over the next 10 years to initiatives designed to accelerate gender equity in the United States.

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