Ghislaine Maxwell appears in court charged with aiding Epstein's sex crimes
Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite, has appeared via video in a US court after being arrested in relation to alleged sex crimes, conspiracy and perjury involving her late close friend and convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell, who was arrested at a luxury hideaway in a small town in New Hampshire early on Thursday, appeared at the state’s federal courthouse. Magistrate judge Andrea Johnstone, asked Maxwell questions about whether she understood her rights and she responded in the affirmative, using short phrases such as “I do.”
Johnstone then ordered Maxwell be transported to New York, where her criminal case is proceeding and she will remain in custody for the time being.
Maxwell was arrested at a secluded house in Bradford, New Hampshire before charged in relation to sex crimes, conspiracy and perjury as part of Epstein’s sex abuse ring. Epstein took his own life in a New York jail last year.
Prosecutors in New York accused her of “slithering away” into hiding and of previously lying repeatedly about her direct and indirect involvement in the abuse of underage girls, because, they alleged, the truth was “almost unspeakable”.
“Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse,” Strauss told a press conference in Manhattan. “In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse.”
“She set the trap. She pretended to be a woman they [alleged victims] could trust.”
Maxwell has long been 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 against her.
Born in Maisons-Laffitte, Île-de-France, in 1961, Ghislaine Maxwell is the youngest of the nine children of Betty and Robert Maxwell, the media tycoon owner of the Mirror Group
Ghislaine was rumoured to be his favourite child, and the former Labour MP named his £15m ($18.6m) yacht Lady Ghislaine after her. He put his daughter in charge of his football club he owned, Oxford United, and when he acquired the New York Daily News, he reportedly sent Ghislaine to warm up Manhattan society for his arrival.
Following her father’s death in 1991 – after apparently falling overboard from Lady Ghislaine near the Canary Islands – Ghislaine Maxwell flew to New York onboard a Concorde. She left behind a huge uproar over $460m found to be missing from her father’s companies’ pensions funds.
Her family’s wealth, status and influence considerably depleted, Maxwell found something of a replacement in her relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Their relationship was initially romantic, but it evolved into something more akin to that of a close friend, confidante and personal assistant. Epstein was later convicted of sex offences, and subsequently died in prison in 2019.
In 2015, Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers, sued Maxwell, alleging the British socialite defamed her by claiming she was a liar in her accusations against Maxwell and Epstein. Giuffre has accused Maxwell of recruiting her to work as Epstein’s masseuse at the age 15, when she was a locker-room attendant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in south Florida. Documents released as part of the lawsuit contain lurid claims about the alleged sex trafficking.
In July 2020, after having been in hiding, Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on charges related to Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell has always denied wrongdoing in her dealings with Epstein or females associated with him.
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 Bradford, New Hampshire, at 8.30am. At the press conference in New York, William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the New York FBI Office, said: “We have been discreetly keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts.”
He added that authorities had recently learned that Maxwell, “slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire”, continuing to live a “life of privilege”.
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.
Related: Ghislaine Maxwell: the key unanswered questions following her arrest
Epstein paid Maxwell “to manage their various properties”, the document says.
The court paperwork provides chilling detail into how Maxwell allegedly lured minors into Epstein’s orbit.
According to charging documents, Maxwell “befriended” some of these victims, “including by asking the victims about their lives, their schools, and their families”. She and Epstein spent time forging relationships with these girls, by taking them shopping and to the movies. The alleged grooming happened, according to the documents, at Epstein’s mansion on the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, his ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as Maxwell’s residence in London.
After developing a rapport, the documents allege, “Maxwell would try to normalize sexual abuse for a minor victim by, among other things, 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”.
Sometimes, Maxwell would give Epstein massages in front of victims whereas other times, she urged them to give him massages, “including sexualized massage during which a minor victim would be fully or partially nude.” These would often involve Epstein sexually abusing these minors.
On some occasions, Maxwell was “present for and participated in the abuse”.
To hide her involvement with Epstein’s abuse, Maxwell gave false information “under oath” in civil litigation, the indictment claims.
Maxwell’s father was the British media baron Robert Maxwell. She was a key presence at his side in his glittering social life, which often included rich, influential and powerful people from around the world in the fields of politics, the arts and science.
Born in Brooklyn in 1953, Jeffrey Epstein was a convicted sex offender and financier who died in jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial for the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. He had previously served 13 months in jail after being convicted in 2008 of procuring an underage girl for prostitution and of soliciting a prostitute. A medical examiner declared Epstein's death a suicide.
His death came after unsealed documents in New York revealed the extent of his abuse of young women at his home in Palm Beach, New York and the Virgin Islands. An earlier attempt to prosecute him on similar charges had collapsed when authorities granted him an unusually generous deal to plead guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida.
Epstein made his name at the investment bank Bear Stearns before opening his own firm in 1982, managing money for clients with wealth in excess of $1bn. The business came with an intensive social schedule. Epstein positioned himself as a party figure in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, and courted the rich, famous and powerful across America and the world.
Epstein’s circle of friends and acquaintances has included Donald Trump; Bill Clinton; Prince Andrew; Leslie Wexner, founder of the company that owns the Victoria’s Secret lingerie brand; and many other prominent names in law, entertainment and politics.
In July 2020, his long-term confidante and personal assistant Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on charges related to Epstein's sex crimes.
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.
Maxwell has said Giuffre’s allegations are untrue. Giuffre in response filed a defamation suit against Maxwell in 2015. On Thursday night, Giuffre welcomed Maxwell’s arrest, saying she was “so, so happy” and thanked the FBI.
After the FBI’s call for his cooperation, a source close to Prince Andrew’s working group said that his lawyers have twice communicated with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in the past month. “The duke’s team remains bewildered given that we have twice communicated with the DOJ in the last month and to date we have had no response,” the source said.
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.”