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Trump and Epstein 'fell out over mansion named House of Friendship'

por Ignacio Weiss (2019-08-17)

Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein had a seemingly close friendship until the pair reportedly fell out over the multi-million dollar sale of a Palm Beach mansion.

From the late 1980s until 2004, both men appeared in public together and were pictured at parties in 1992, 1997 and 2000.

But their relationship reportedly soured over a prime Palm Beach property called Maison de l'Amitie - the House of Friendship - that was being sold out of bankruptcy. 

The six-acre oceanfront home with a 100-foot swimming pool and hot tub overlooking the sea was targeted by Epstein who was planning to pay $36 million for the property when it came up for auction in 2004.

But Trump bid $5m more than his rival and flipped the 17-bedroom mansion to Russian oligarch and Vladimir Putin ally, Dmitry Rybolovlev, for $95 million in 2008.

Maison de l'Amitie - the House of Friendship - was bought by Trump for $41 million and sold for $95m to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2008

Trump with his girlfriend and future wife, former model Melania Knauss, and Jeffrey Epstein alongside British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach in 2000

It was described at the time as the most expensive US residential property sale ever. 

Billionaire Epstein was reportedly enraged by Trump's move, especially as he had shared his plan with his friend under the mistaken impression the struggling New York property developer would not be able to raise enough capital.

The 62,000-square-foot mansion featured Greek fountains, tennis courts, lavish murals and underground parking for dozens of cars.

In November 2004 Trump reportedly described the property as 'the finest piece of land in Florida and probably the US'.

He also said it was the 'second greatest house in America', after his Mar-a-Lago retreat which is just a ten-minute drive away.

Joseph Luzinski, the trustee in the case, recalled both men were vying for the prime piece of real estate.

He told the Washington Post: 'It was something like, Donald saying, ''you don't want to do a deal with him, he doesn't have the money'', while Epstein was saying, ''Donald is all talk. He doesn't have the money''. They both really wanted it.'

An aerial image of the 17 bedroom Florida mansion before Trump bought it and renovated the inside and landscaped the grounds

Jeffrey Epstein (left) and Donald Trump together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, in 1997

The bank seized the the land from Abe Gosman, a businessman who made a fortune building nursing homes, who then lost his money in 2004.

Local reports also reveal Trump and Epstein battled it out at the auction, with the Apprentice star saying: 'I won't be living there because I already live in the best house in America.'

He later added: 'I'm the largest developer in New York so this isn't a big deal to me.' 



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Share 76 shares Trump then listed Maison de l'Amitie for $125 million after renovating the inside and landscaping the grounds, but was forced to slash the price after failing to sell it for two years. 

Property records confirm that an LLC with Trump's name bought and then sold the massive mansion.

Michael Wolff, who was close with both Trump and Epstein at the time, wrote in his explosive book Fire and Fury that Epstein was furious when Trump bought the property from under him with finance from Deutsche Bank.

He also claimed Epstein was under criminal investigation soon after he threatened to expose Trump as a financial fraud. 

It was around this time that Trump reportedly banned Epstein from Mar-a-Lago and since the billionaire's arrest on sexual assault charges he has distanced himself from the relationship telling reporters, 'I was not a fan of his'. 

Dmitry Rybolovlev bought the property in 2016 and it was torn down and made into three lots

The three lots recently sold for a combined $108 million and construction is underway on two of the plots

Jose Lambiet, a Florida reporter and blogger who knows Trump and once toured the luxury property with him said there was shock when the deal went through.

Trump himself bragged about the coup in a 2016 Politico interview, in which he said: 'It was a great deal. I'm good at real estate.

'That was a house I bought for fun, I cleaned it up a little bit, but not too much.' 

But the sale of the home later caused Trump problems when he entered the White House and his business dealings with Russia were being scrutinized.

Trump's plans to build a skyscraper in Moscow, as well as the huge Palm Beach real estate deal were questioned when Russian meddling in his 2016 election victory was being investigated.   

Rybolovlev never lived in Maison de l'Amitie and in 2016 it was torn down and divided into three lots that were recently sold together for $108 million. 

Epstein was told by a federal judge in Manhattan on Wednesday that his sex trafficking trial will have a provisional date of next June. 

Read more:
- The Washington Post

Trump and the oligarch - POLITICO