Ghislaine Maxwell, associate of Jeffrey Epstein, is arrested

  • >>Nicole Hong and Benjamin Weiser, The New York Times
    Published: 2020-07-02 21:43:05 BdST

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime associate of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested Thursday and charged with playing a key role in his alleged sex-trafficking operation.

In an indictment, Maxwell was accused of helping Epstein “recruit, groom and ultimately abuse” multiple girls, including one as young as 14.

The arrest came nearly a year after Epstein was charged in a federal indictment with sexually exploiting and abusing dozens of underage girls at his mansion in Manhattan; his estate in Palm Beach, Florida; and other locations.

Epstein hanged himself in August in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where he had been jailed pending trial on the federal sex-trafficking charges. After his death, federal prosecutors said they would continue to investigate his associates.

“This case against Ghislaine Maxwell is the prequel to the earlier case that we brought against Jeffrey Epstein,” Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference Thursday.

William F. Sweeney Jr., head of the FBI office in New York, said at the news conference that Maxwell was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire. Authorities had been “discreetly keeping tabs” on Maxwell’s whereabouts and recently learned that she had moved to a “gorgeous mansion” in the state, he said.

Maxwell, a longtime confidante and companion of Epstein’s, had for years been accused of helping to procure and groom young girls for the financier, including instructing them on how to pleasure Epstein sexually.

“They were like partners in a business,” Epstein’s house manager, Janusz Banasiak, said in a deposition.

The daughter of British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, Ghislaine Maxwell also helped manage Epstein’s properties and introduced him to the celebrities and business executives who would form his social circle.

As part of the investigation into Epstein’s associates, federal authorities had sought the cooperation of Prince Andrew of Britain, a longtime friend of both Maxwell and Epstein.

In an unusual move, prosecutors had announced publicly that the prince refused to help with their investigation. Last month, the prince’s lawyers said he had agreed to provide New York prosecutors with a written statement but would not sit for an interview.

Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, leads a news conference in New York on Thursday, July 2, 2020, where she announced the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell. Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime associate of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested Thursday on criminal charges linked to his alleged sex-trafficking operation. (Jose A. Alvarado Jr./The New York Times)

Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, leads a news conference in New York on Thursday, July 2, 2020, where she announced the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell. Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime associate of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested Thursday on criminal charges linked to his alleged sex-trafficking operation. (Jose A. Alvarado Jr./The New York Times)

On Thursday, Strauss said federal prosecutors would still like to speak with Prince Andrew. The investigation is ongoing, and officials urged others who might have been victims to contact authorities.

“The example set by the women involved in this investigation has been a powerful one,” Sweeney said. “They persevered against the rich and the connected, and they did so without a badge, a gun or a subpoena, and they stood together.”

Lawsuits have accused Maxwell, 58, of managing a network of recruiters on whom Epstein relied to entice young and often financially strapped girls and women into his scheme, promising he would help them with their education and careers.

“She orchestrated the whole thing for Jeffrey,” one of Epstein’s accusers, Sarah Ransome, who sued him in 2017, told The New York Times in an interview.

The federal indictment charged Maxwell with six counts, including enticing minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity and perjury.

The indictment described three instances between 1994 and 1997 of Maxwell befriending girls, taking them shopping and to the movies. After establishing a rapport with the girls, Maxwell would “normalise sexual abuse” by undressing in front of them or talking about sexual topics, the indictment said.

“Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them,” Strauss said.

When Epstein offered to pay for travel and educational opportunities for some of the girls, Maxwell encouraged them to accept his assistance, according to the indictment.

“As a result, victims were made to feel indebted and believed that Maxwell and Epstein were trying to help them,” the indictment said.

Epstein would then abuse the girls in various residences and other locations in New York, New Mexico, Florida and London, according to the indictment.

Maxwell would also sometimes be present when Epstein sexually abused girls, which “helped put the victims at ease because an adult woman was present,” according to the indictment.

In one instance in 1996, the indictment said, Maxwell gave an underage girl an unsolicited massage in New Mexico while the girl was topless.

Prosecutors also accused Maxwell of lying under oath during a 2016 deposition in a lawsuit, about her role in Epstein’s operation.

When Maxwell was asked whether Epstein had a scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages, she responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the indictment said.

Jeffrey Pagliuca, who has been a lawyer for Maxwell, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In March, Maxwell sued Epstein’s estate, saying that he had promised to pay her legal fees for any claims from women who say she helped him recruit them to give him massages when they were teenagers.

Last year, federal prosecutors accused Epstein of paying girls and women to give him massages while they were nude or topless, in encounters that typically included sex acts. That activity, however, was said to have occurred between 2002 and 2005. It was unclear why Maxwell was charged with actions that prosecutors said occurred earlier.

Maxwell was born in France and grew up in a mansion in Buckinghamshire, England, where she rubbed shoulders with aristocrats and royals. She attended the University of Oxford and moved to New York in 1991, around the time when her father bought the New York Daily News.

But her father died that year after falling off a boat in the midst of mounting debt. Maxwell moved into a modest apartment on the Upper East Side.

After Maxwell and Epstein began dating, she began spending a lot of time at his mansion in Florida, entertaining prominent visitors from around the world. Maxwell was described as charming, entertaining and funny — in contrast to Epstein.

In 2000, Maxwell moved into a town house less than 10 blocks from Epstein’s mansion that was purchased by an anonymous limited liability company represented by Epstein’s longtime lawyer.

In a Vanity Fair article a few years later, Epstein described Maxwell as his “best friend.” He said that she was not on his payroll, though the story noted that she seemed to organise much of his life.

Questions about the nature of their close relationship, however, emerged over the years.

Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 in Florida to state charges of soliciting prostitution, and a 2009 lawsuit against Epstein claimed that he and Maxwell sexually abused one woman when she was 16. Maxwell has denied the claims.

For years Maxwell’s social standing had appeared unscathed. In 2013, she stood with Lloyd C. Blankfein, then the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, at an event supporting marriage equality and was pictured alongside Michael Bloomberg, then the mayor of New York, at a book party.

But after Virginia Giuffre, who had accused Epstein and Maxwell in the 2009 lawsuit of abusing her as a teenager, filed a defamation suit against Maxwell in 2015, she disappeared from the party circuit and was rarely spotted in public.

 

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