Maxwell, 58, was arrested on charges related to the investigation into Epstein’s alleged sexual abuse of young girls and women. She is set to appear in a federal court later Thursday
“Maxwell was among Epstein’s closest associates and helped him exploit girls that were as young as 14-years-old,” said New York Southern District Prosecutor Audrey Strauss at a media conference. “Maxwell played a critical role in helping identify, groom victims for abuse. In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse herself.”
Epstein, a convicted sex offender, died by suicide in prison last August while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges that he denied.
Maxwell was Epstein’s former girlfriend and has been frequently named by his accusers as someone who allegedly helped to arrange the procurement and abuse of underage girls. She has repeatedly denied any involvement.
Prosecutors said Maxwell was well aware of Epstein’s preference for minor girls and that he intended to sexually abuse them.
She has been charged with four counts related to procuring and transporting minors for illegal sex acts and two counts of perjury.
“Today, my fellow Epstein survivors and I are able to take a breath of relief, as Maxwell’s arrest means some justice for survivors can exist,” said Jennifer Araoz, who has accused Maxwell of helping traffic her for Epstein.
“Day after day, I have waited for the news that Maxwell would be arrested and held accountable for her actions. Her arrest is a step in that direction, and it truly means that the justice system didn’t forget about us,” she said.
Court documents unsealed in August 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.”
In 2015, Giuffre 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 called the accusations “lies,” which led Giuffre to file a defamation suit that was settled shortly before trial in 2017.
Maxwell is the daughter of British media mogul Robert Maxwell. 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.
Earlier this month, U.S. prosecutors accused Prince Andrew of evading their efforts to question him about his contacts with Epstein. Andrew has publicly stated he will cooperate with any appropriate law enforcement agency. U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in June there were no plans to extradite Andrew.
Strauss was asked about the prince during Thursday’s media conference. She said she “welcomes Prince Andrew coming to talk to us.”
“Our doors remain open,” she added.
— With files from Reuters and Global News’ Andrew Russell