A fund set up to provide money to scores of women who say they were abused by financier Jeffrey Epstein when they were as young as 14 has abruptly suspended payouts over uncertain funding/
The Virgin Islands attorney-general on Thursday blamed the move on Epstein's estate as she moved to freeze its assets.
The announcement by the Epstein Victims' Compensation Program came through a release that attributed the suspension to uncertainty about the liquidity of estate assets needed to finance payouts.
Officials said the fund, which operates independently of the estate, would have up to $US630 million ($A830 million) when it began operations last June.
It said payments, which have topped $US55 million ($A72 million), will not resume before March 25, the deadline to file claims. The deadline to register for the program is Monday.
Late Thursday, US Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise N. George said in a statement that her office was seeking a court order to freeze all payments and sales of assets by the co-executors of Epstein's estate to preserve and protect its assets.
George said she was unaware that the estate was defaulting on deposits it was required to make until the estate informed her Wednesday that it could not make its agreed-to payment and did not know when it could.
She said the estate had breached an agreement with the government of the Virgin Islands and lawyers for victims that was approved by the Probate Court of the US Virgin Islands.
In a statement, the estate said it has so far funded the program with over $US87 million ($A115 million) to pay claimants and that over $US55 million ($A72 million) has been paid out.
It said the estate finished 2020 with $US240 million ($A316 million) in assets, but that many of them were residential properties, private investments and aircraft that need to be sold, a process hampered by the coronavirus pandemic and lawsuits the estate must defend against.
According to the release from the fund, the program's 150 claims to date have far exceeded expectations; when the fund began, the program said there was expected to be over 70 claims.
The fund was financed with money from the estate of Epstein, 66, who killed himself at a Manhattan federal jail in August 2019 while he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges that alleged he abuse women and girls under 18 at his Florida estate and his Manhattan mansion in the early 2000s.
Messages seeking reaction to the fund's shutdown have been sent to several lawyers involved in litigation on behalf of women who say they were sexually abused by Epstein.