Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite and close friend of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested, an FBI spokesperson has said.
Maxwell was accused by many women of recruiting them to give Epstein massages, during which they were pressured into sex. Those accusations, until now, never resulted in criminal charges.
Maxwell had kept a low profile, and her location was unknown since Epstein’s arrest last July on charges that he abused and trafficked in women and girls in Manhattan and Florida between 2002 and 2005. The search for Maxwell has been the subject of intense speculation, with reported sightings and rumors of her whereabouts popping up across the US and even abroad.
She was arrested in the small town of Bradford, New Hampshire at 8.30am. She is accused of assisting Epstein’s abuse of minors by helping to recruit and groom victims known to be underage.
Four of the six charges relate to the years 1994-97 when Ms Maxwell was, according to the indictment, among Epstein’s closest associates and also in an “intimate relationship” with him. The other two charges are allegations of perjury in 2016.
The indictment says Ms Maxwell “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18”.
Specifically, she is charged with:
- Conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts
- Enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts
- Conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity
- Transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity
She is accused of grooming multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts with Epstein. She allegedly attempted to befriend them by asking about their lives and families and then she and Epstein built the friendships by taking minor victims to the cinema or shopping.
Having built a rapport, Ms Maxwell would “try to normalise sexual abuse for a minor victim by… discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein”.
The perjury counts relate to depositions she gave to a New York court on 22 April and 22 July 2016.
The charge sheet says she “repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct, including in relation to some of the minor victims”.
Epstein, who pleaded not guilty, killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell in August last year.
The 17-page, six-count indictment filed by the Manhattan US attorney charges Maxwell with a host of crimes, including conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and perjury.
The indictment described Maxwell’s relationship to Epstein as “personal and professional” – and that she was “in an intimate relationship” with him from about 1994 to 1997.
Epstein paid Maxwell “to manage their various properties”, the document says. Maxwell’s father was the British media baron Robert Maxwell. She was was a one-time girlfriend of Epstein’s and key presence at his side in his glittering social life, which often included rich, influential and powerful people from around the world in politics, the arts and science.
Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s alleged victims, has said in a civil lawsuit that Maxwell recruited her into Epstein’s circle, where she claims Epstein forced her to have sex with him and friends including British royal Prince Andrew – who has strongly denied the allegations.
Maxwell has said Giuffre’s allegations are untrue. Giuffre in response filed a defamation suit against Maxwell in 2015.
When Epstein killed himself, many victims complained that his death had robbed them of a day in court to tell their stories and get justice with a verdict. For some, Maxwell’s arrest appears to offer a second chance of that happening, if it comes to trial.
Epstein accuser Jennifer Araoz issued a statement in which she said that she and other Epstein survivors were “able to take a breath of relief” after hearing the news of Maxwell’s arrest.
“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.”