Ghislaine Maxwell’s arrest reopens Jeffrey Epstein case and hopes of learning the truth
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When Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself in his prison cell in Manhattan last August as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges, it wasn’t just his own life he cut short. He cheated efforts by the many women he was accused of abusing to obtain justice.
And he left one of the great conspiracy theories unanswered. Who was this man? And why did so many rich, powerful people breathe a sigh of relief when he died?
Ghislaine Maxwell’s arrest on Thursday reopens a case many thought closed. Maxwell was Epstein’s closest friend and alleged enabler. She was once a very visible and popular New York social figure, a high-voltage link between the worlds of media, finance, politics and culture. She was the acceptable face of the more awkward Epstein.
But her personal charm and connections are irrelevant now. As her case heads to court in New York, all anyone wants from her is the truth about how Epstein’s wealth and influence allowed him to hide his serial depravity in plain sight.
What exactly went on between Epstein and friends like Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton? What did Epstein do with all the recordings taken by the hidden cameras riddling the walls and fixtures of his homes?
The promise of Maxwell, 58, facing trial will certainly have ruined the summers of many prominent men.
Prince Andrew has already refused an in person interview with Epstein’s US prosecutors. But the heat on him will now intensify. Maxwell, who grew up in England, was the Prince’s connection to Epstein.
On Thursday night a source close to the Andrew’s working group said: “The Duke’s team remains bewildered given that we have twice communicated with the Department of Justice in the last month and to-date, we have had no response.”
Ghislaine Maxwell with the Duke of York leaving the wedding of a former girlfriend of Andrew’s in Salisbury in 2000 (PA)
President Trump knew Epstein well in the 1990s, but Trump said last year that he had not spoken to Epstein in 15 years. Former President Clinton had a much closer friendship with both Epstein and Maxwell. He travelled frequently on Epstein’s jet and invited Maxwell to his daughter Chelsea’s wedding.
Epstein’s links to the powerful meant his suicide prompted endless speculations. He was supposed to be under constant supervision, yet somehow the guards took their eyes off him for long enough for him to construct an elaborate noose and hang himself.
There are more than enough gaps in that story to fill it with theories of murder, double-agents, and pay-offs by the many who preferred Epstein dead.
Prosecutors said yesterday that since vanishing after Epstein’s arrest, Maxwell had hopscotched between homes in New England.
There were rumours that she had fled to France, which has no extradition treaty with the US. Turns out, last December she bought a 156 acre property in Bedford, New Hampshire, paying cash through an anonymous company. She had $20 million in 15 different accounts, had changed her telephone number and email.
The FBI’s lead investigator, William Sweeney, said that they had “been discreetly keeping tabs” on her, but pounced when she “slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire.”
Maxwell is being charged on six counts: enticing minors to travel for illegal sex acts, transporting a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity; two conspiracy counts related to the prior charges; and two counts of perjury for allegedly lying in a 2016 deposition about her links to Epstein. She could face up to 35 years in jail.
Audrey Strauss, the acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said yesterday that “Maxwell lied because the truth as alleged was almost unspeakable. Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into the trap she and Epstein had set for them.”
Audrey Strauss, acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, gestures as she speaks during a news conference to announce charges against Ghislaine Maxwell (AP)
Maxwell was ordered to be transferred to New York to await trial.
The grim holding cells are a very long way from her privileged youth, when her father, Robert Maxwell, was still a powerful media owner in London. And just as far from the life given her by Epstein, whom she met soon after coming to New York.
Earlier this year, Maxwell sued Epstein’s $600 million estate. She claimed that he had promised to pay her legal costs if any women accused her of recruiting them for sexual massages with him.
So far at least 70 women have shown an interest in a restitution fund set up by Epstein’s estate for his victims.
Now, not only does Maxwell not have Epstein’s money to shield her and divert attention from her own alleged crimes. She doesn’t even have him.