British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has been charged with playing a role in the “sexual exploitation and abuse” of multiple underage girls by Jeffrey Epstein, according to a court filing.
Maxwell, who has kept a low profile since Epstein‘s death in August last year, was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire on Thursday on charges related to the disgraced billionaire financier.
Epstein was accused of raping and trafficking underage girls over the course of nearly two decades.
Last year, Epstein was arrested in New York on charges of trafficking minors, but was found hanged in an apparent suicide in prison while awaiting trial.
Some of Epstein’s alleged victims have alleged that Maxwell, 58, lured them into his circle, where they were sexually abused by him and powerful friends.
Maxwell – the daughter of newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell – was a former partner of Epstein, one of his closest associates and was also paid to manage his various properties.
She has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said some of the claims against her were “absolute rubbish”.
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One alleged victim of Epstein, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has claimed that Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Prince Andrew at the socialite’s London townhouse.
The Duke of York categorically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Ms Roberts.
The now public court filing against Maxwell says she “assisted, facilitated and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse” girls under the age of 18.
The indictment included counts of conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and two counts of perjury.
According to the indictment, Maxwell attempted to befriend some of the alleged victims before their abuse, including by taking them to the cinema or shopping.
After gaining their trust, she would “try to normalize 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”, the indictment says.
In some instances, she would massage Epstein in front of girls and encourage them to take part in massages while they were fully or partially nude.
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Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss said Maxwell had “repeatedly lied” about her involvement because the truth was “almost unspeakable”.
Ms Strauss claimed the socialite had “enticed young girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them”.
The alleged victims were abused in multiple locations, including Epstein’s homes in New York, Florida and Sante Fe, and Maxwell’s home in London, the indictment claims.
The documents allege Maxwell perjured herself by saying “I don’t know what you’re talking about” when asked if Epstein schemed to recruit underage girls for sexual massages.
She also said she was unaware Epstein was having sexual activities with anyone, other than her and two other people, while she was with him.