Days after his death in a U.S. jail, the investigation into Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking ring continues with new focus on the people who may have assisted in what authorities have called a rampant sexual abuse of underage girls.
At the centre of the focus is Epstein’s former girlfriend, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.
Last week, documents stemming from a 2015 defamation lawsuit against Maxwell were unsealed by a U.S. judge.
The lawsuit, filed by one of Epstein’s alleged victims Virginia Roberts Giuffre, sheds light on allegations of Maxwell’s involvement in the alleged sex-abuse scandal—including the accusation that she oversaw and trained recruiters, and helped conceal the activity from police.
Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?
The daughter of publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, the British socialite is well known for her high-ranking social connections.
Epstein and Maxwell dated in the early 1990s and reportedly introduced him to many of her connections, including Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.
According to a profile published in Vanity Fair in 2003, Epstein and Maxwell remained close even after their relationship ended, describing her as his “best friend.”
Although the article claims Maxwell was not on his payroll, it notes that she seemed to “organize much of his life.”
What are the allegations?
According to the unsealed documents from the defamation lawsuit, Giuffre alleged that Maxwell approached her in 1999, when she was just 15 years old, to recruit her into the alleged sex-trafficking scheme.
Giuffre, who said she was used as a “sex slave” for Epstein from 1999 to 2002, alleged that Maxwell was a “primary co-conspirator” in the scheme. She also claimed Maxwell participated in the sexual abuse.
The lawsuit, filed by in 2015, claimed that Maxwell subjected Giuffre to “public ridicule, contempt and disgrace” by calling her a liar in published statements. The case was settled for an unspecified amount in 2017.
Prosecutors have not accused Maxwell of any wrongdoing, but say they continue to investigate.
According to The Associated Press, representatives of Maxwell have not responded to requests for comment. In sworn statements, she has denied any wrongdoing.
In a videotaped deposition related to the defamation lawsuit, Epstein refused to answer questions related to both his and Maxwell’s involvement, pleading the Fifth Amendment that protects people against incriminating themselves when asked specifically if Maxwell brought him underage girls.
New lawsuit names Maxwell
On Wednesday, a woman who has accused Jeffrey Epstein of sexual assault filed a lawsuit against Maxwell and three unnamed staff members who worked for Epstein in New York.
The complaint, filed by Jennifer Araoz, alleges Maxwell and the other staffers conspired with each other to facilitate sexual abuse and rape at the hands of Epstein.
Araoz publically accused Epstein of sexual abuse and rape in July during an interview with NBC News.
The lawsuit is the first to be filed since Epstein’s death, and one of the first to be filed under New York state’s Child Victims Act, which allows victims of child sex abuse to launch civil cases against their alleged abusers for the next 12 months, regardless of when the alleged abuse took place.
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