FBI probe

Ghislaine Maxwell appears in court facing sex charges linked to Jeffrey Epstein

Maxwell faces charges over her alleged role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of girls by the disgraced financier.

LAST UPDATE | Jul 2nd 2020, 10:35 PM

jeffrey-epstein-associate John Minchillo / PA John Minchillo / PA / PA

BRITISH SOCIALITE GHISLAINE Maxwell has appeared in court accused of facilitating long-time associate Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual exploitation of underage girls.

Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire today and accused of helping the disgraced financier “identify, befriend and groom” multiple girls, including one as young as 14.

At a brief hearing the same day, a magistrate judge ordered Maxwell to remain in custody while she is transferred to New York for a detention hearing there.

Acting US attorney for the southern district of New York Audrey Strauss said Maxwell, daughter of late media mogul Robert Maxwell, had helped Epstein “identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse”.

Maxwell, daughter of late media mogul Robert Maxwell, is accused of facilitating Epstein’s abuse by identifying and grooming underage girls.

She has previously denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of sexual misconduct by her former boyfriend Epstein, who took his own life in prison last year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

Announcing the charges, Strauss claimed that Maxwell had helped Epstein to exploit underage girls and “in some cases” would participate in the abuse herself.

“Maxwell was among Epstein’s closest associates and helped him exploit girls who were as young as 14 years old,” she told reporters.

“Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse.”

Four of the six charges cover Maxwell’s dealings with Epstein from 1994 to 1997, when she was in an “intimate relationship” with him, according to the indictment.

These include conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.

She is further charged with conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Authorities claim that Maxwell, who is also charged with two counts of perjury, allegedly lied when being questioned under oath in 2016. / YouTube

Meanwhile, a source close to Prince Andrew said he is “bewildered” by claims made by US authorities that he has not offered to co-operate with the Epstein case.

It comes after Strauss told today’s press conference that authorities would “welcome” a statement from the duke in relation to the investigation.

One of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, claims that Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Andrew at the socialite’s London townhouse.

Giuffre has claimed she was trafficked by Epstein and alleges Prince Andrew had sex with her on three separate occasions, including when she was 17, still a minor under US law.

Andrew categorically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Giuffre, while his lawyers claim the duke has made three offers to give a witness statement to investigators.

US attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents one of Ghislaine Maxwell’s accusers, said she and her client applauded the socialite’s “long overdue arrest”.

“Maxwell’s brutal, ruthless behaviour caused my client tremendous pain,” Ms Bloom said in a statement.

“We applaud her long overdue arrest today.

“All others accused of enabling Jeffrey Epstein’s predations must immediately be brought to justice as well.” 

cecil-wedding-duke-maxwell Ghislaine Maxwell pictured in 2000. PA PA

Maxwell has previously repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called some of the claims against her “absolute rubbish”.

Maxwell was described in a lawsuit by another Epstein victim, Sarah Ransome, as the “highest-ranking employee” of Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking enterprise.

She oversaw and trained recruiters, developed recruiting plans and helped conceal the activity from law enforcement, the lawsuit alleged.

The indictment mirrored many of the claims previously made in civil lawsuits against Maxwell.

It said that as early as 1994, Maxwell would “entice and groom” minor girls by asking them about their lives, their schools and their families.

“Through this process, Maxwell and Epstein enticed victims to engage in sexual activity with Epstein. In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims,” the indictment said.

The indictment said Maxwell repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct.

At the time the crimes occurred, Maxwell was in an intimate relationship with Epstein and was also paid by him to manage his various properties, according to the indictment, which included a photograph of Epstein with his arm around Maxwell and his head nuzzling hers.

Epstein was initially investigated in Florida and pleaded guilty to state charges in 2008 that allowed him to avoid a lengthy prison sentence. He was free a little after a year in prison.

At the time, a federal prosecutor in Florida signed off on an agreement, initially filed in secret, that barred the federal government from charging “any potential co-conspirators of Epstein.”

Federal prosecutors in New York have argued that they are not bound by that agreement.

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