French Epstein associate ready to take police questions: lawyer

Des manifestants portent des photos de Jeffrey Epstein le 8 juillet 2019 devant la prison de New York où était emprisonné Jeffrey Epstein avant son suicide. (AFP Photo/STEPHANIE KEITH)

Paris (AFP) - A French modelling agent who has been accused of procuring young girls for disgraced US billionaire Jeffrey Epstein denied Monday that he was on the run and said he was available for questioning.

Jean-Luc Brunel "is not on the run" and "firmly contests the allegations circulated by the press", his lawyer Corinne Dreyfus-Schmidt said in a statement.

Brunel, founder of Karin Models and MC2 Model Management, is accused in American court documents of rape and of procuring young girls for Epstein, who was found hanged in his New York jail cell on August 10 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking.

After his death the investigation spilled over into France, where prosecutors in August launched an inquiry into claims of rape and sex abuse, including of minors.

The French probe is focusing on potential crimes committed against French victims as well as French suspects, including Brunel.

"Before even the preliminary investigation was launched he (Brunel) made contact with the Paris prosecutor's office, informing it that he remained at the disposal of the authorities", his lawyer stressed.

Several former top models have come forward with allegations of rape against Brunel.

In the US, Virginia Giuffre filed a suit accusing Epstein of using her as a "sex slave" and of forcing her to sleep with well-known politicians and businessmen, including Brunel.

She alleged that Brunel, a hugely influential figure in the modelling industry, would bring girls as young as 12 to the US and pass them on to his friends, including Epstein.

Several women in France have also come forward with allegations, including a former Dutch model, who says she was drugged and raped by Brunel at a Paris flat in the early 1990s.

On September 17, French police raided the offices of Karin Models and the following week searched Epstein's luxury Paris home not far from the Arc de Triomphe.

Brunel in 2015 issued a rare statement in which he vehemently denied involvement, "directly or indirectly" in any crimes by Epstein, with whom he fell out in later years.

Now in his 70s, he has made no public comment on the latest allegations.

He was spotted at a high-society function at the beginning of July but has not been seen in public since.

"Mr Brunel is keeping his statements for the authorities," Dreyfus-Schmidt said.