Billionaire Leon Black sues rape accuser and law firm, alleging libel, racketeering


NEW YORK, Oct.28 (Reuters) – Billionaire investor Leon Black has stepped up his battle against a former model who accused him of rape, filing a lawsuit on Thursday accusing her and her law firm of libel and conspiracy racketeering.

In the complaint, lawyers for the former CEO of Apollo Global Management Inc (APO.N) accused Guzel Ganieva and the Wigdor law firm of engaging in a “criminal enterprise”, including falsely linking Black to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

“Knowing that for him, and in his world, reputation matters, they set out to destroy him and make him pay anything to get them arrested,” said the complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan. “They plan to line their pockets with the results.”

Ganieva sued Black in New York state court in June, charging him with rape and other abuse, forcing him to sign a non-disclosure agreement in 2015 regarding their 6.5-year relationship and defaming her by claiming that she tried to extort her.

“This is a clear act of retaliation,” Ganieva’s lawyer Jeanne Christensen said in an email about Thursday’s trial. “We look forward to defending ourselves against these ridiculous claims.”

Black, 70, strongly denied the claims of Ganieva, with whom he had what he now calls a “regrettable” consensual relationship from 2008 to 2014.

Those claims included that Black had tried to get Ganieva, now in her thirties, to have sex with Epstein in 2008.

Black said he paid Ganieva $ 100,000 a month for several years not to discuss their relationship after she tried to extort $ 100 million from him. Those payments ceased after Ganieva tweeted about Black in March.

In the state case, Black sued Ganieva for defamation but dropped the lawsuit, with her lawyer saying he wanted to focus on his defense.

Black recently beefed up its legal team, adding John Quinn, a name partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, and Susan Estrich, whose clients included former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.

“There really is no reason for Mr. Black to defend himself,” said Estrich, who said she has known Black since they attended Dartmouth College in the 1970s, in an interview. “The private and consensual conduct of an adult is not a matter of the law. Extortion and defamation are a matter of law. “

Black has publicly regretted his involvement with Epstein, who committed suicide in a Manhattan jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Earlier this year, Black resigned from Apollo after an external independent review found he had paid Epstein $ 158 million for tax and estate planning, although he was not involved in the Epstein’s criminal activities.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; edited by Jane Wardell

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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