Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial to begin in New York City

Ghislaine Maxwell
Ghislaine Maxwell, pictured in 2013, was in a relationship with Jeffrey Epstein in the 1990s. She was arrested at her home in July 2020 and was found guilty of grooming underage girls to be abused by Jeffrey Epstein

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell is due to go on trial in New York City on sex trafficking and other charges.

She is expected to challenge claims she groomed underage girls for convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein for sexual abuse. He died in prison in 2019.

Ms Maxwell, 59, has been in a US jail since her arrest last year, awaiting the high-profile six-week trial.

Ms Maxwell, who also has American and French citizenship, has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against her.

Lawyers for Ms Maxwell, as well as family members, have repeatedly complained about her conditions in jail and her legal team has made several unsuccessful applications for bail.

Epstein died in a New York prison cell on 10 August 2019 as he awaited his trial on sex trafficking charges.

The trial of Ms Maxwell, the daughter of late media mogul Robert Maxwell, is scheduled for 08:30 local time (13:30 GMT) on Monday.

The prosecution is then expected to lay out the case and preview evidence and witnesses – but the defence is likely to question the credibility of some of the witnesses.

No cameras will be allowed in the courtroom.

According to a letter by Ms Maxwell’s lawyer, the defence will say her accusers might have faulty memories.

The letter says that leading experts in psychiatry and memory will be brought in to testify in her defence.

What are the charges?

Ms Maxwell is accused of having helped Epstein sexually abuse underage girls.

US prosecutors allege she “played a critical role in the grooming and abuse” of minors.

Four charges relate to the years 1994-97 when she was, according to an indictment, among Epstein’s closest associates and also in an “intimate relationship” with him.

Two other charges – of sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor – came in an amended indictment and relate to the period 2001 and 2004.

Sarah Ransome, one of Epstein’s alleged victims, has told the BBC’s Panorama programme that Ms Maxwell worked closely with him.

She said: “Ghislaine controlled the girls. She was like the madam. She was like the nuts and bolts of the sex trafficking operation.”

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

Born outside Paris on Christmas Day, 1961, Ms Maxwell grew up in a country mansion, went to Oxford University and speaks several languages.

She is Robert Maxwell’s ninth and youngest child.

Robert Maxwell
Robert Maxwell was a British media proprietor and former member of Parliament (MP)

She is said to have had a very close relationship with her late father, and he named his luxury yacht – the Lady Ghislaine – after her.

Soon after her father’s death in 1991, Ms Maxwell left the UK to settle in America, where she worked in real estate, and not long after met Jeffrey Epstein.

She sold her Manhattan townhouse in 2016, and kept a low profile until she was arrested last July at her secluded mansion in the state of New Hampshire.

Analysis box by Nada Tawfik, New York correspondent

Ghislaine Maxwell’s highly awaited trial will be closely followed from New York to London.

The British publishing heiress for years dodged the press as her accusers came forward with shocking and disturbing claims.

In the long and twisted saga of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking scandal, his arrest and death under unusual circumstances, many questioned whether this trial would in fact take place.

Legal experts say this is one of the most high-profile cases to try a woman for allegedly facilitating a sex trafficking operation.

The four underage girls in the indictment, now grown women, are expected to take the stand to tell their stories under oath.

It’s unclear if Ghislaine Maxwell will do the same. Her brother, Ian Maxwell says at least one sibling will be present every day of the trial to support her.

This case will be narrowly focused on the charges in the indictment, and therefore will not answer every burning question around Epstein’s sex trafficking ring. But it will add another piece to the puzzle.


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