Former Norwegian diplomat Terje Rød Larsen resigned as president and CEO of International Peace Institute due to his "failed judgment" in taking money from Jeffrey Epstein, IPI's board of directors announced on Wednesday.
Larsen, who had a lead role in the 1990s Oslo Accords, developed a financial relationship with Epstein — the disgraced financier who killed himself in a Manhattan federal administrative detention facility in August 2019 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking minors — and did not disclose it to the board of directors.
"Mr. Rød-Larsen apologized to the board for his failed judgment in securing donations from foundations related to Jeffrey Epstein and in securing his own personal loan from Epstein in 2013 — neither of which the board was aware of," IPI's board said in a statement. "Epstein's crimes were hideous. The notion that IPI would be in any way engaged with such an odious character is repugnant to the institution's core values."
Larsen enjoyed a distinguished career in a series of United Nations-related missions before he became leader of the New York-based think tank IPI in January 2005. He is married to Norway’s U.N. ambassador Mona Juul, another U.N. veteran who helped forge the Oslo Accords that formed the basis for talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. In July 2019, she was elected to a one-year term as president of the United Nations’ 54-nation Economic and Social Council.
The couple's role in bringing about the secretly negotiated accords that created the Palestinian Authority more than a quarter-century ago was fleshed out in J. T. Rogers’ Broadway play “Oslo” about the pursuit of international peace.
Attempt to 'safeguard its integrity'
Norwegian business newspaper DN was the first to report on the financial links between Rød Larsen, IPI and Epstein. IPI's board, chaired by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, said IPI's vice president, Adam Lupel, a political theorist and researcher, was appointed to serve as acting president and CEO.
The think tank located in United Nations Plaza, one of the high rise residential and office buildings in Manhattan’s Midtown directly across First Avenue from U.N. headquarters, has long counted the U.N. secretary-general as an honorary chair. But after news surfaced of the questionable financial links, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres canceled that arrangement.
Though Larsen has said he repaid in full the US$130,000 personal loan from Epstein, IPI's board emphasized that it must "safeguard its integrity for the future" by returning any money it may have received from Epstein's foundations. To accomplish that, the board said it will hire a global accounting firm to immediately audit IPI's finances for any donations by him. It then plans to donate a matching amount to programs that support victims of human trafficking and sexual assault.
"Epstein’s foundations collectively donated more than US$30 million to dozens of charitable and teaching institutions prior to his death. Although many institutions have decided to keep some or all of these donations, the IPI Board takes the strict view that every dollar should be re-donated," the board said. "IPI’s financial officers have confirmed to the board that no payment has ever been made by IPI to Epstein, despite some press speculation to the contrary."