Who is Ghislaine Maxwell, the woman accused of helping Jeffrey Epstein ‘procure’ underage girls?
The apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein has shifted the spotlight onto British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who has been accused in civil court documents of playing a key role in recruiting and grooming underage girls for Epstein’s alleged child-sex-trafficking ring.
Maxwell, 57, the daughter of British media mogul Robert Maxwell, has never faced criminal charges and has repeatedly denied any involvement in Epstein’s alleged abuse of underage girls. Global News reached out to Maxwell’s attorney for comment but did not receive a response.
Epstein, the disgraced financier, was found dead in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) at 6:30 a.m. Saturday. He had pleaded not guilty to federal charges of sex trafficking involving minors, which could have resulted in a 45-year prison sentence.
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that the investigation into Epstein’s alleged crimes would continue and could target co-conspirators.
“To those brave young women who have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so, let me reiterate that we remain committed to standing for you, and our investigation of the conduct charged in the indictment — which included a conspiracy count — remains ongoing,” he said.
Attorney General William Barr also warned on Monday that “any co-conspirators should not rest easy.”
“Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit,” Barr said at a law enforcement conference in New Orleans. “The victims deserve justice, and they will get it.”
Maxwell, who was a former girlfriend of Epstein’s, has been frequently named by his accusers as someone who allegedly helped to arrange the procurement and abuse of underage girls.
Court documents unsealed last week contained allegations from Virginia Giuffre, who accused Maxwell of “acting as a madam” for Epstein. The documents also allege that “multiple witnesses” and alleged victims had testified that “[Maxwell] assisted in internationally trafficking [the plaintiff] and numerous other young girls for sexual purposes.”
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In 2015, Giuffre had previously accused Maxwell of recruiting her as Epstein’s personal masseuse at age 15, when she worked as locker-room attendant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Maxwell had called the accusations “lies,” which led Giuffre to file a defamation suit that was settled shortly before trial in 2017.
More than 2,000 pages of documents related to the civil claim were unsealed last week.
“[Maxwell] took numerous sexually explicit pictures of underage girls involved in sexual activities, including [plaintiff],” the lawsuit said. “[Plaintiff] was ‘forced’ to watch Epstein, Ms. Maxwell and others ‘engage in illegal sexual acts with dozens of underage girls.’”
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A butler also testified that he “witnessed, firsthand [sic], a 15-year-old Swedish girl crying and shaking because [Maxwell] was attempting to force her to have sex with Epstein and she refused,” according to the court documents.
Giuffre has also alleged she was forced to have sexual relations with Prince Andrew several times, including at Maxwell’s apartment in London. Buckingham Palace has denied the claims, stating “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Maxwell grew up and attended university in England before moving to the U.S. in 1991 after her father fell to his death from a yacht named Lady Ghislaine. Following his death, massive discrepancies in his finances were revealed, including more than $900 million in pension and other funds that were allegedly skimmed from Mirror Group Newspapers.
Maxwell has been photographed alongside many powerful people who are linked to Epstein, such as U.S. President Donald Trump, Prince Andrew and former U.S. president Bill Clinton. Maxwell was also a guest at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2010.
In 2008, Epstein had reached a secret plea deal, in which he pleaded guilty to a single count of soliciting prostitution from an underage girl under Florida state law. He served just 13 months of an 18-month jail sentence but escaped federal charges.
Last month, Epstein was charged with paying underage girls hundreds of dollars in cash for massages and then allegedly sexually assaulting them at various locations, including his homes in Palm Beach, Fla., and New York from 2002 through 2005.
Despite the ongoing criminal case against Epstein, Maxwell kept up her public persona and even founded a charity in 2012, the TerraMar Project, which fights to preserve the oceans. She has given a TED Talk on the cause and spoke at the United Nations in 2014.
However, U.S. authorities are now “having trouble locating” Maxwell, according to the Washington Post. Her Manhattan townhouse was sold in 2016 for $15 million by a company linked to Epstein’s New York office. The Post also reports that her lawyers told a judge in 2017 she was in London but had no fixed address.
—With files from the Associated Press
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