British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, an ex-girlfriend of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, is facing charges in the US after being arrested by the FBI.
The six charges include enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and two counts of perjury.
She was reportedly arrested in New Hampshire and is due in federal court later.
She has denied any involvement in or knowledge of Epstein’s alleged sexual misconduct.
Epstein died in prison on 10 August as he awaited, without the chance of bail, his trial on sex trafficking charges.
He was arrested last year in New York following allegations that he was running a network of underage girls – some as young as 14 – for sex. His death was determined to be suicide.
- Who is Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s ex-girlfriend?
- Jeffrey Epstein: The financier charged with sex trafficking
What are the charges?
The indictment says that Maxwell “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse 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”.
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; and transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
There are also two counts of perjury. The charge sheet says she “repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct, including in relation to some of the minor victims”.
Between 1994 and 1997 Ms Maxwell was among Epstein’s closest associates and was also in an “intimate relationship” with him, the indictment says.
During the same period she groomed multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts with Epstein, the indictment says. She 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”.
What is the background?
Some of Epstein’s alleged victims say Ms Maxwell brought them into his circle to be sexually abused by him and his friends.
One of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, has accused Ms Maxwell of recruiting her as a masseuse to the financier at the age of 15.
Details of that allegation against Ms Maxwell emerged in documents unsealed by a US judge last August in a 2015 defamation case, but are not part of the charges against Ms Maxwell unveiled in July 2020.
Other women have also made allegations that Ms Maxwell was involved. One, Sarah Ransome, told the BBC’s Panorama that Ms Maxwell “controlled the girls. She was like the Madam”.
Ms Maxwell has denied any wrongdoing.
Earlier this year Ms Maxwell sued Epstein’s estate seeking reimbursement for legal fees and security costs. She “receives regular threats to her life and safety”, court documents in that case said.
Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?
Ms Maxwell is the daughter of late British media mogul Robert Maxwell.
A well-connected socialite, she is said to have introduced Epstein to many of her wealthy and powerful friends, including Bill Clinton and the Duke of York (who was accused in the 2015 court papers of touching a woman at Jeffrey Epstein’s US home, although the court subsequently struck out allegations against the duke).
Buckingham Palace has said that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors” by the duke was “categorically untrue”.
Ms Maxwell has mostly been out of public view since 2016.
In a BBC interview last year, the Duke of York said he had met up with Ms Maxwell last year, before Epstein was arrested and charged.
However they did not discuss Epstein, he said.
- Six things we learned from Prince Andrew interview
- Transcript in full: Prince Andrew’s interview
- How the interview unfolded
Last month a US prosecutor said Prince Andrew had “sought to falsely portray himself” as eager to cooperate with the inquiry into Epstein.
US attorney Geoffrey Berman said Prince Andrew had “repeatedly declined our request” to schedule an interview.
The duke’s lawyers previously rejected claims he had not co-operated, saying he offered to help three times.
Prince Andrew stepped away from royal duties last year.