Socialite, tycoon’s daughter, friend of Epstein: Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

The death of Jeffrey Epstein in prison from an apparent suicide instantly shone the spotlight on the wealthy financier’s rich and famous former associates.

At the peak of his success, he counted the likes of Donald Trump, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen and Prince Andrew among his social circle.

And after the 66-year-old was found dead in his cell last August as he awaited trial over sex trafficking charges, the focus instantly fell on those who knew Epstein.

Among those was his former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, who is back in the spotlight after being arrested by the FBI and charged with playing a role in the “sexual exploitation and abuse” of multiple underage girls by Epstein.

But who is she? And why is she significant to the Epstein case?

Ghislaine Maxwell attends the ETM 2014 Children's Benefit Gala at Capitale on May 6, 2014 in New York City
Image:Ghislaine Maxwell, seen here in 2014, is the daughter of newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell

Ms Maxwell is the 58-year-old daughter of newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell.

The elder Maxwell was found dead in the Atlantic Ocean in 1991, close to the yacht he had named after her, the Lady Ghislaine.

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It emerged after his death that he had stolen pension funds to shore up his business empire.

By many accounts, Ghislaine was the favourite of Maxwell’s nine children. Born in Paris, she studied at Oxford before moving to New York in the aftermath of her father’s death.

Ms Maxwell quickly began rubbing shoulders with the city’s rich and famous.

She reportedly had a trust fund from her father that gave her $100,000 a year and worked selling property in Manhattan.

It was among New York’s high society that she met Epstein.

Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry
Image:Jeffrey Epstein was facing trial for sex trafficking charges

According to reports, the pair dated for a while but the relationship later turned into something akin to a close friendship.

A Washington Post profile of Ms Maxwell characterised her as Epstein’s “guide to a heady world of celebrity, wealth, power and royalty”.

She is said to have introduced him to former US president Bill Clinton and Andrew, Duke of York.

Ms Maxwell was friends with John F Kennedy Jr in the 1990s, was a guest at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2010, and lived in a plush Manhattan townhouse.

In a 2003 magazine interview, Epstein described Ms Maxwell as his “best friend”.

But court documents have alleged that Ms Maxwell acted as Epstein’s de facto madam, helping him procure underage victims.

In sworn statements, she has denied any wrongdoing.

Ghislaine Maxwell. Pic: Clint Spaulding/WWD/Shutterstock
Image:Ghislaine Maxwell has been arrested and charged over the over sexual exploitation of underage girls by Jeffrey Epstein. Pic: Clint Spaulding/WWD/Shutterstock

In a 2017 lawsuit, Ms Maxwell was described as the “highest-ranking employee” of Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking enterprise.

The lawsuit alleges that she oversaw and trained recruiters, developed recruiting plans and helped conceal the activities from the authorities.

Ms Maxwell was also involved in a separate case – a defamation lawsuit brought by one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, in 2015.

A cache of legal papers relating to this case were unsealed by a US judge the day before Epstein’s death.

Virginia Roberts Giuffre and her lawyer David Boies
Image:Virginia Roberts Giuffre brought a defamation case against Maxwel

The papers also mention Johanna Sjoberg, another alleged Epstein victim.

It is claimed that Ms Sjoberg was a “young college student” who was approached by “perfect stranger” Ms Maxwell, who “lured” her to Epstein’s home with the promise of a “legitimate job”.

According to reports, Ms Maxwell had distanced herself from Epstein in recent years, in particular after his 2008 conviction for sexual abuse.

She was repported to have been in hiding since his death, but filed a lawsuit in in the US Virgin Islands seeking compensation from his estate for her legal costs.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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