The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has initiated a probe against Mike Jeffries, the former CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F), and his British partner after a BBC report claimed that they sexually exploited men at events they hosted across the globe. A civil lawsuit against Mr Jeffries and his partner Matthew Smith also claimed that they operated a sex-trafficking business, BBC reported.
The investigating agency is currently interviewing and issuing subpoenas to potential witnesses. FBI agents specialising in alleged sex crimes, and federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York are leading the investigation, sources told BBC.
The probe comes after a BBC podcast series and documentary alleged in October last year that Mike Jeffries and Matthew Smith exploited young adult men for sex at events they hosted in London, New York, and Marrakesh. Eight men told the BBC they attended these events, some of whom alleged they were exploited or abused. They claimed that Mr Jeffries and Mr Smith would either “direct” or take part in sexual relations with them.
While all of the men who attended the events were paid and signed non-disclosure agreements, half of the men who attended the events told the BBC they had initially been misled about the sort of events they were attending.
Several flight tickets and event itineraries have been uncovered during the investigation suggesting the existence of a systematic operation that included recruiters and a middleman, James Jacobson, who has denied any involvement in wrongdoings.
He repeatedly offered to “do a deal” saying, “Leave my name out and I’ll tell you everything,” when the BBC approached him at home.
Reacting to the allegations, Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) said it was “appalled and disgusted” by the alleged behaviour. The company also suspended part of Mr Jeffries’ retirement benefits worth $1 million annually.
Abercrombie & Fitch in a statement in October said, “For close to a decade, a new executive leadership team and refreshed board of directors have successfully transformed our brands and culture into the values-driven organization we are today. We have zero tolerance for abuse, harassment, or discrimination of any kind.”
Mr Jeffries, who led A&F’s global expansion for two decades, stepped down as CEO in 2014.