Ghislaine Maxwell: who is Jeffrey Epstein's alleged accomplice?

Arrested by the FBI on Thursday, Maxwell has been accused of playing a "critical role" in alleged sex crimes involving Jeffrey Epstein.

Ghislaine Maxwell: who is Jeffrey Epstein's alleged accomplice?
Patrick McMullan Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell appeared in court via video link this week after being accused by United States prosecutors of playing a "critical role" in alleged sexual-abuse crimes involving the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell has also been charged with committing perjury four years ago in statements relating to allegations of sexual abuse.

Epstein dies in jail amid sex-trafficking, conspiracy charges

Epstein died in custody in August 2019, as he awaited trial in New York over sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges. The 66-year-old was accused of paying dozens of girls under the age of 18 to perform sex acts, and faced 45 years in prison.

He had already served 13 months of an 18-month jail sentence in Florida a decade previously, after pleading guilty to soliciting prostitution from underage girls in 2008.

Prosecutors say Maxwell involved in "grooming and abuse of minor victims"

An statement released by the US Department of Justice on Thursday alleged that Maxwell and Epstein "exploited girls as young as 14, including by enticing them to travel and transporting them for the purpose of engaging in illegal sex acts".

It continued: "As alleged, knowing that Epstein had a preference for young girls, Maxwell played a critical role in the grooming and abuse of minor victims that took place in locations including New York, Florida, and New Mexico. In addition, as alleged, Maxwell made several false statements in sworn depositions in 2016."

Maxwell "set the trap" for Epstein victims, says US attorney

"Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse," Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, said. "In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse. She set the trap. She pretended to be a woman they [alleged victims] could trust.

"All the while, she was setting them up to be abused sexually by Epstein and, in some cases, Maxwell herself. Today, after many years, Ghislaine Maxwell finally stands charged for her role in these crimes.”

Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss speaks during a news conference to announce charges against Ghislaine Maxwell for her alleged role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of multiple minor girls by Jeffrey Epstein.

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

Maxwell, 58, is the youngest child of media tycoon Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991 after apparently falling overboard from his 180-foot yacht - which he had named Lady Ghislaine after his daughter - while it was cruising off the Canary Islands.

Ghislaine, who moved to the US after her father’s death, is a former girlfriend of Epstein. After their romantic relationship came to an end, reportedly at some point in the 1990s, she became "something more akin to […] a close friend, confidante and personal assistant" to Epstein, a Guardian profile says.

She has been named in several lawsuits filed by woman who say they were victims of sexual abuse. One accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has alleged that she was coerced by Epstein and Maxwell into having sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17.

Giuffre, who says Maxwell recruited her to work as Epstein’s masseuse when she was 15, alleges that the disgraced financier paid her $15,000 to have sex with the prince, who denies the claims and says he has "no recollection" of meeting his accuser.

In 2015, Giuffre sued Maxwell over the socialite’s claims that her accusations were lies. During the defamation case, which was settled two years later, Giuffre said she was "forced to have sexual relations" with Prince Andrew "in three separate geographical locations".

FBI investigation leads to Maxwell arrest on Thursday

Maxwell was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire on Thursday morning. “We have been discreetly keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts as we worked this investigation,” said William Sweeney, the assistant director of the FBI’s New York office.

"More recently, we learned she had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims lived with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago."