Microsoft founder Bill Gates is still at pains to distance himself from disgraced businessman and convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, 10 years after they met.
The billionaire computer genius had numerous meetings over the years with Epstein, who was found dead in his New York prison cell in August 2019, to discuss fundraising and philanthropy.
However, Gates has repeatedly attracted criticism for the meetings, given Epstein had already been convicted of soliciting prostitution from minors at the time.
"I had dinners with him, I regret doing that," Gates said on US TV show PBS NewsHour today.
"He had relationships with people he said would give to Global Help [a healthcare non-profit organisation], which is an interest I have and not nearly enough philanthropy goes in that direction."
Gates was repeatedly grilled about the meetings with Epstein on the current affairs programme, replying they were a "mistake" and "regrettable".
"Those meetings were a mistake, they did not result in what he purported and I cut them off," he said.
"You know, that goes back a long time ago now. I've said I regretted having those dinners and there's absolutely nothing new on that."
When questioned if he'd learned "a lesson" from meeting with Epstein, a clearly uncomfortable Gates issued an odd response.
"Well, he's dead, so in general you always have to be careful," he said, following it with an awkward laugh.
"And you know, I'm very proud in what we've done with philanthropy, I'm very proud of the foundation and that's what I get up every day and focus on."
n May, reports emerged that Melinda French Gates' decision to start divorce proceedings with her husband was linked to Gates' relationship with Epstein.
A former employee of their Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation charity told the Wall Street Journal that French Gates had concerns about her husband's interactions with the convicted sex offender.
The publication claimed her concerns about Gates' dealings with the financier dated as far back as 2013 when the couple met Epstein.
The former employee told the Journal the Microsoft founder continued his relationship with Epstein despite French Gates telling her husband she was uncomfortable with the man.
Epstein died in jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial for multiple sex trafficking charges.
In 2019, the New York Times reported that Gates had met with Epstein on multiple occasions and once stayed late into the night at his Manhattan townhouse.
It is understood French Gates held a number of calls in October 2019 after the New York Times report.
That same year, Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Gates, said he "regrets" his meetings with Epstein, which were reportedly to discuss philanthropy.
"Bill Gates regrets ever meeting with Epstein and recognises it was an error in judgment to do so," Arnold said at the time.