Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and confidante of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested by the FBI and charged with playing a role in the “sexual exploitation and abuse of multiple minor girls,” according to a court filing.
The British socialite and heiress was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire at 8.30am this morning on charges related to Epstein. She remains in custody.
Maxwell has been charged with playing a role in the “sexual exploitation and abuse of multiple minor girls by Jeffrey Epstein,” in a six-count indictment published in court papers.
The 58-year-old socialite was also charged with conspiracy to transport minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Court filings said Maxwell “assisted, facilitated and contributed to Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse ” girls under the age of 18.
“In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse,” the indictment said.
The indictment also accuses Maxwell of luring underage girls by asking them about their lives, schools and families.
“As alleged, Maxwell and Epstein had a method. Typically, they would approach young girls and ask them about their lives, pretending to take an interest in them. They would take them and treat them to shopping trips,” Manhattan US attorney Audrey Strauss
After winning the girls’ trust, the indictment alleges Maxwell would try to “normalise sexual abuse” by discussing sexual topics or by undressing in front of them or being present when they undressed.
“As an adult woman, Maxwell would put them at ease,” said Strauss, adding that doing so made young girls vulnerable to sexual abuse.
“That abuse included sexualised massages in which the minor victim was fully or partially nude… that developed into sexual encounters for which Maxwell in some instances was present and participated.” Victims were said to be as young as 14 years old.
“Maxwell and Epstein worked together,” added Strauss. “Some of the acts of abuse also took place in Maxwell’s residence in London”.
The heiress was also charged with two counts of perjury, according to the indictment.
“In addition to aiding and participating in the sexual abuse of minors, Maxwell compounded her crimes by repeatedly lying in 2016 when she was questioned under oath,” said Strauss.
“Maxwell lied because the truth as alleged was almost unspeakable. Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, and then delivered them into a trap that she and Epstein had set for them.”
Strauss added: “Today, after several years, Ghislaine Maxwell finally stands charged for her role in these crimes.”
Prosecutors said she faces up to 35 years in prison.
Maxwell denied the charges after her arrest this morning. She has repeatedly refuted any wrongdoing and has said accusations against her are “absolute rubbish”.
The arrest comes days before the anniversary of Epstein’s arrest last year over child sex trafficking charges. Epstein was accused of running a “vast network” of underage girls for sex, but pled not guilty to charges. He killed himself in a New York prison cell last August while awaiting trial.
Maxwell has kept a low profile following Epstein’s death. Before her arrest today, she was last seen since last August when she was photographed at an In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles, ten days after Epstein’s suicide.
The British socialite, daughter of the late newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, was thrust into the spotlight in the UK last year after Virginia Giuffre Roberts accused Maxwell of introducing her to Prince Andrew when she was 16.
Roberts claimed she had sex with Prince Andrew after a night of partying that had been facilitated by Maxwell in her London flat. Maxwell said Roberts’ allegations were untrue, and Roberts filed a defamation suit against Maxwell in response. Prince Andrew has repeatedly denied the claims.
Earlier this year, the FBI claimed that the royal had repeatedly ignored requests for him to testify in an ongoing investigation into Epstein’s crimes. The Duke of York denied the allegations, adding that he had co-operated with questioning from the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
A source close to the Duke’s working group told City A.M: “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.”
Maxwell returned to public attention last month after a new Netflix documentary cast her at the centre of Epstein’s circle. Several witnesses in the Filthy Rich documentary accused Maxwell of acting as Epstein’s “pimp”, and claimed she recruited girls from high schools, country clubs and in the street. Others accused her of facilitating their travel around the world.
The Netflix show prompted renewed interest in the heiress’ whereabouts, and “Where is Ghislaine?” was plastered on Twitter and in media outlets in the wake of the screening.