New allegations claim BVAC donor Leon Black ’73 sexually harassed Russian model

The allegations also assert that Black flew the Russian model to meet convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

by Daniel Modesto | 9/17/21 5:10am

nik-medrano-the-dartmouth
by Nik Medrano / The Dartmouth

Updated 7:10 p.m., Sept. 17, 2021

More allegations against former trustee Leon Black ’73 have come to light after an internal review ordered by Black’s company revealed that Black paid convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein over $150 million dollars from 2012 to 2017. 

Last October, a New York Times report revealed that Black had paid Epstein at least $50 million in the years after Epstein first pleaded guilty to charges of sex crimes in 2008. After the New York Times report was published, Black requested that the board of his company, Apollo Global Management, conduct a review. The results of the review, which was released in January, indicate that Black had paid more than $150 million to Epstein for services related to trust and estate planning, taxes and philanthropy. The review also found no evidence that Black played a role in Epstein’s criminal enterprise.

In June, former model Guzel Ganieva filed a lawsuit against Black, claiming that Black sexually harassed and abused her over the course of seven years. Ganieva has also alleged that Black flew her to Florida against her will to meet Epstein in 2008. 

Community members at Dartmouth have on multiple occasions lobbied the College to take action about Black’s ties with Epstein and change the name of the Black Family Visual Arts Center. Dartmouth Community Against Gender Harassment and Sexual Violence, an advocacy group comprised of alumni, students, faculty and other College affiliates, called on the College to remove Black’s name from BVAC in February.

Ruth Cserr ’88, a founding member of the group, said that the recent allegations have “distressed” several members of the group and have caused her perceptions of the building  to change.

“I feel like every time I walk in, now that I know about Black and his relationship to Epstein, it’s an affront to all the survivors of sexual violence and harassment,” Cserr said. “It’s just a constant reminder.”

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence declined to comment on the recent developments, noting that the allegations were part of an “ongoing legal matter.” She confirmed that there were no plans to rename the arts center.

Cserr said that the College’s inaction indicates a lack of “will or bravery or concern [regarding the allegations against Black].” She stressed that the College should respond promptly given Black’s recent tenure on the Board of Trustees and the history of sexual misconduct at Dartmouth.

On Jun. 1, Ganieva filed a defamation lawsuit in a New York state court against Black. According to the lawsuit, Black falsely accused her of extorting him in a Bloomberg article, which was published shortly after Ganieva alleged on Twitter that Black had sexually harassed and abused her. In the article, Black stated that he had a “consensual affair” with Ganieva and that her allegations were unrelated to his decision to step down as CEO from Apollo Global Management.

The lawsuit details Ganieva’s relationship with Black, alleging that Ganieva experienced a cycle of “intimidation, abuse and humiliation by Black” including “forced sexual conduct against her will” and an instance of rape in 2014. Ganieva added that Black exhibited “derogatory and controlling conduct,” including belittlement and physical intimidation. 

In early July, Black’s lawyers filed a counterclaim, in which they wrote that the allegations made by Ganieva were a “work of fiction” and contend that the relationship between Black and Ganieva was “casual, episodic and completely consensual.” According to the counterclaim, Ganieva initiated an extortion campaign in which she “would harm Mr. Black’s personal and professional life” if he didn’t send her “exorbitant sums of money.”

In an emailed statement to The Dartmouth, Black’s attorney Danya Perry wrote that Ganieva’s alleged Florida meeting with Epstein was “made up,” adding that recorded conversations reveal that “Ms. Ganieva acknowledged… she never met Jeffrey Epstein in Mr. Black’s presence.” She denounced the “sham lawsuit” as an attempt to “destroy” Black’s character.

A month following Black’s counterclaim, Ganieva alleged in an amended version of the lawsuit that Black flew her “down to Florida [in 2008] without her consent to satisfy the sex needs of Epstein.” According to the lawsuit, Black warned her to not tell anyone or “he would frame her with possessing ‘very serious’ drugs that would make her family and son ashamed of her.”

The lawsuit claims that once Ganieva arrived at Epstein’s home in Florida, she was uncomfortable being in the presence of both Black and Epstein, who allegedly coerced her into “[laying] in between [them].” It states that Ganieva recalled feeling “disgusted” and “caught off-guard” and that she clearly stated that she would not have sex with Epstein. The lawsuit states that Black then flew her back to New York in silence.

Ganieva’s lawyer Jeanne Christensen wrote in an email statement to The Dartmouth that she and her firm will continue to “aggressively litigate the claims alleged against Leon Black on behalf of our client Guzel Ganieva.”

According to a stipulation document provided to The Dartmouth on Friday by Wigdor LLP, the law firm representing Ganieva, Black officially discontinued his counterclaim against Ganieva “without prejudice and without costs or fees to any party” on Wednesday.  

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