A piece in today’s Times:
Ghislaine Maxwell has been transferred to New York city before her court appearance on charges of abuse and trafficking as lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein’s victims say she is “highly likely” to enter a plea bargain.
Ms Maxwell, the British socialite, was arrested on Thursday by the FBI at a secluded New Hampshire mansion and charged with helping to abuse and procure girls as young as 14 for her friend Epstein.
The Times understands that she has been taken by US marshals to a New York facility ready for an expected court appearance in Manhattan either today or on Monday.
Ms Maxwell, who is facing 35 years in prison if found guilty, is under pressure to reveal the names of co-conspirators in exchange for a lesser sentence.
Epstein, a convicted sex offender, died aged 66 in a New York jail last August. His death was ruled to be suicide. Lisa Bloom, a lawyer for six of his victims said that 95 per cent of cases ended in plea bargains and it was “highly likely” that Ms Maxwell would accept a deal.
If Ms Maxwell, daughter of the late newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, agrees a plea bargain it will place a strain on the Duke of York, who it is alleged to have had sex with a 17-year-old girl in 2001.
The charges that Ms Maxwell is facing are not related to the claims made against Prince Andrew, by Virginia Guiffre Roberts, but law enforcement officials will be keen to ask Ms Maxwell about him.
This morning Steven Hoffenberg, Epstein’s former mentor, claimed that Ms Maxwell would be “fully co-operating” with the FBI. Mr Hoffenberg, who spent 18 years in prison for running a Ponzi scheme that he said Epstein masterminded, said that Ms Maxwell had been convinced that she was not being arrested and that she would “crack in two seconds” in prison.
He said: “Andrew handled it poorly, very poorly. He should have spoken to them through his lawyers and given them some guidance. He should have given them something.
“She’s going to co-operate and be very important. There’s a lot of people very worried, a lot of powerful people been named, and she knows everything. She’ll totally co-operate.”
Mark Stephens, a British lawyer, said: “If, as she is, facing effectively a lifetime in jail, why wouldn’t you try and cut a plea deal, you try and get a reduced sentence, and if that means bringing down some rich and powerful men, some of whom have been named and will be innocent but some of who are going to be found to be very guilty, I think that’s the pressure they’re putting on Ghislaine Maxwell.”
Ms Maxwell was accused of helping Epstein to “recruit, groom and ultimately abuse” at least three girls, including one as young as 14, between 1994 and 1997. One of the girls was allegedly abused in London. After being arrested in New Hampshire, she appeared in court by a video link and was remanded in custody.
Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, said that the investigation into Epstein and his associates was continuing and she urged Prince Andrew to “come in to talk to us”.
Andrew has been locked in a long-running battle with law enforcement in the US over his availability to answer questions about his former friend. He has been accused of attempting to “falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to co-operate”, and was said to have “completely shut the door on voluntary co-operation” by Geoffrey Berman, the US prosecutor who was leading the investigation into Epstein until last month.
A source close to Andrew’s legal working group said: “The Duke of York has offered his assistance to the Department of Justice investigation on a number of occasions this year. In addition, the working group has proactively contacted the DoJ twice in the last month and have received no response. That is why we remain utterly bewildered by the DoJ’s approach. However, a request from a commercial law firm is not and never will be the same as an official judicial process.”
In an interview with LBC on Friday morning, Boris Johnson said that no official approach had been made by the US authorities to speak to Prince Andrew about his links to Epstein.
Ms Giuffre has claimed that she was introduced to Epstein by Ms Maxwell before being trafficked to London and forced to have sex with Prince Andrew in Ms Maxwell’s Belgravia home. Andrew denies the claim and has said that he has no recollection of meeting Ms Giuffre. Last year Scotland Yard said that it would not open a criminal investigation into the claims.
In a statement last year Buckingham Palace said: “Any suggestion of impropriety with under-age minors is categorically untrue.”
Investigators accused Ms Maxwell of being “one of the villains” of the Epstein case. On Thursday, Ms Strauss, gesturing at a photograph of Epstein nuzzling Ms Maxwell with his arm around her, said that they had a “personal and professional relationship”.
Ms Maxwell, she alleged, was “among Epstein’s closest associates and helped him exploit girls” and “in some cases participated in the abuse herself”.
She said that Ms Maxwell had perjured herself because “the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable”. She added: “Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them.”
Regarding Prince Andrew, she said: “We would like to have the benefit of his statement . . . our doors remain open and we would welcome him coming in and giving us an opportunity to hear his statement.”
Gloria Allred, an American lawyer who represents some of Mr Epstein’s victims, said that Prince Andrew was subjecting the victims to a “torture test” by not speaking out about “what he knows”. “The question is, when is he going to tell what he knows? He needs to do that. He needs to do it without delay. It is so traumatising and difficult for the victims not to know the truth,” she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Ms Maxwell’s arrest in the town of Bradford, New Hampshire, at about 8.30am yesterday brought to an end intense speculation about her whereabouts. Last month she was said to have been living in a flat in Paris and in August last year she was photographed eating a burger at a fast-food restaurant in Los Angeles.
William Sweeney, assistant director of the FBI in New York, said that his officers had been “discreetly keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts throughout”. He added: “Recently we learnt she had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims live with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago.”
The US authorities urged the courts to resist any application for bail, saying that Ms Maxwell had “an extraordinary incentive to flee” because of her ready access to large amounts of money and her international connections. Since 2016 the FBI has identified 15 bank accounts linked to Ms Maxwell, who has three passports, citizenship in two other countries and few meaningful US ties, giving her “absolutely no reason” to stay in the country. She has travelled at least 15 times internationally in the past three years, including to the UK, Japan and Qatar.
She was claimed to have been living on a 156-acre property in Bradford that she bought in cash last December, using a limited liability company to shield her identity.
US prosecutors claim that Ms Maxwell sold a home in New York city for $15 million in 2016, again through a limited liability company, and moved all but $1 million into accounts in her name. Her finances were described as “opaque and indeterminate”.
Ms Maxwell has denied involvement in Epstein’s abuse. At the time of his death, he had been charged with paying under-age girls and women to give him massages while they were naked or topless. Unlike Ms Maxwell’s charges, his covered the period from 2002 to 2005. The three girls in the indictment are not named and it is unclear whether the alleged victim who met Ms Maxwell in the UK has made any complaint to police there.
Last year Anouska De Georgiou, a British former Playboy model, described how she was groomed and raped by Epstein after meeting him in London during the 1990s.
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