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US Labour Secretary Alex Acosta announces resignation over Epstein affair

File photo of US Labour Secretary Alexander Acosta.  Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi Jul 12, 2019, 07.36 PM (IST)

Alex Acosta announced his resignation as US Labour secretary Friday, amid criticism of a secret plea deal he negotiated a decade ago with Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of sexually abusing young girls, reported news agency AFP.

"I called the president this morning and told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside," Acosta said in a joint appearance with President Donald Trump at the White House.  

On Monday, US prosecutors in New York accused Epstein, 66, of sex trafficking in an indictment that detailed how he lured dozens of girls, some as young as 14, to his luxury homes and coerced them into performing sex acts. Epstein has pleaded not guilty.

The prosecutors said they were not bound by the 2008 Florida deal struck by Acosta, then the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, that allowed Epstein to plea to a lesser offence. Epstein served 13 months in jail with leave during the day and registered as a sex offender.

Epstein's case drew renewed attention earlier this year after a Miami Herald report highlighted the plea deal and victims' ongoing struggle for justice. In February, a federal judge in Florid ruled that the agreement between Acosta and Epstein violated the victims' rights.

The White House at the time said it was looking into the matter.

Acosta's role in the Florida deal for Epstein was raised at his confirmation hearing in the Republican-led Senate. He has served as Labour secretary since April 2017.

(With inputs from agencies)

Story highlights

"I called the president this morning and told him that I thought the right thing was to step aside," Acosta said in a joint appearance with President Donald Trump at the White House.