The arrest of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell by the FBI on Thursday marks a new twist in the saga of the late sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and his connections to members of the upper echelons of global power. Maxwell was taken into custody without incident in New Hampshire. She is charged with facilitating Epstein’s procurement and abuse of underage girls. Her trial could shed light on accusations that have linked Epstein to well-known figures in the political, academic and social worlds.
Who is Ghislaine Maxwell and how is she tied to Jeffrey Epstein?
Maxwell is a 58-year-old British socialite and ex-girlfriend of Epstein and has been accused of being a key player in the financier’s alleged sex trafficking ring. Her whereabouts had been unknown since Epstein’s arrest last summer, frustrating lawyers of his alleged victims. Following her arrest, authorities said Maxwell had “slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire,” continuing to live a “life of privilege.”
Epstein was arrested last July on charges of trafficking minors for sex. He died in August in his cell in New York in what was ruled a suicide by hanging, but numerous irregularities in the case, including the disappearance of surveillance tapes from the time in question, have led to widespread skepticism of the finding.
Maxwell and Epstein have been accused of recruiting underage girls to perform sex acts for Epstein and his friends, a who’s who of high society. Epstein and Maxwell became romantically linked after she moved to New York in the early 1990s. In a 2003 Vanity Fair article, Epstein said Maxwell was his “best friend.” She had receded from public view as of 2016 following a series of lawsuits tied to Epstein accusers.
What are the specific charges against her?
Maxwell was charged with facilitating the sexual abuse of underage girls by Epstein from 1994 to 1997.
According to the 17-page grand jury indictment that was unsealed Thursday, she faces six counts: 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 two counts of perjury.
The illegal sex acts allegedly occurred at Epstein’s residences in New York City, Palm Beach, Fla., and Santa Fe, N.M., as well as Maxwell’s home in London. The alleged victims were as young as 14.
According to prosecutors, Maxwell attempted to “normalize” the sexual abuse by befriending and developing a “rapport” with Epstein’s victims. Her presence during their encounters with Epstein, prosecutors say, “helped put the victims at ease because an adult woman was present.”
“In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims,” the indictment said.
Maxwell was also charged with lying during 2016 depositions in the federal case against Epstein.
“Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable,” acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said at a news conference in Manhattan Thursday morning.
Do Maxwell and Epstein have ties to any U.S. presidents?
Yes, two. Donald Trump socialized with Epstein, whose waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, where some of the alleged sex acts occurred, is less than a mile from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. Records show that Trump flew on Epstein’s private jet on occasion. Although Trump has denied knowing Maxwell, they have been photographed together at social events.
Trump’s former labor secretary, Alex Acosta, was the U.S. attorney in Miami in 2008 when he negotiated what legal observers said was a shockingly lenient plea deal for Epstein, who had been charged with running a sex-trafficking ring but was allowed to plea to soliciting and procuring. Acosta resigned last year after renewed scrutiny of his role was prompted by a Miami Herald investigation.
Last year, a federal judge ruled that Acosta’s office broke the law by failing to notify Epstein’s victims of the plea deal. In exchange for his plea, Epstein received federal immunity both for himself and “any potential co-conspirators.” The potential co-conspirators were not identified in the agreement. The billionaire served only 13 months in the private wing of a Palm Beach County jail and was allowed to come and go from the facility for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, on work release.
Early in his career, Epstein was a protégé of Donald Barr, the father of Attorney General William Barr, who hired him to teach at New York’s prestigious Dalton School despite his lack of a college degree.
Maxwell attended the wedding of Chelsea Clinton, whose father, former President Bill Clinton, flew on Epstein’s private plane multiple times.
Following Epstein’s 2019 arrest, Christine Pelosi, daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeted, “It is quite likely that some of our faves are implicated but we must follow the facts and let the chips fall where they may — whether on Republicans or Democrats.”
How does this involve Prince Andrew?
One of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, said Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, at Maxwell’s London townhouse in 2001. Andrew has denied the claim.
The indictment unsealed Thursday does not mention Andrew by name, but U.S. prosecutors, who have been seeking an interview with him, said they would like to speak with him anyway.
“We would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk to us,” said Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney. “We would like to have the benefit of his statement.”
Andrew stepped back from his senior royal duties in November, after an interview on “BBC Newsnight” about his friendship with Epstein that was widely considered a disaster for the royal family.
Read more from Yahoo News: