03/07/2020 5:33 AM AEST

Jeffrey Epstein Confidante Ghislaine Maxwell Arrested

The British socialite has been alleged to be Epstein’s chief associate and enabler of his alleged serial sexual abuse.

Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite who has been accused of helping multimillionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse girls as his top confidant, has been arrested in relation to Epstein’s sex crimes, authorities announced.

Maxwell was arrested by the FBI in Bradford, New Hampshire, on Thursday morning and is expected to appear in federal court later in the day, an FBI spokesperson told HuffPost.

Prosecutors say she conspired to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts with Epstein in as early as 1994, according to an indictment filed in New York and obtained by HuffPost. 

“Maxwell assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18,” a copy of the indictment reads. “In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims.”

Sylvain Gaboury via Getty Images
Ghislaine Maxwell, seen here in 2016, was arrested this week in relation to Jeffrey Epstein's sex crimes.

In some cases, prosecutors say Maxwell would befriend the minor victims by taking them to the movies or to go shopping. She would attempt to normalize sexual abuse around them and pay for their travel and/or other opportunities which would make the victims “feel indebted.”

She faces six counts in all, including conspiracy, enticement and transportation of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, and two counts of perjury over testimony she gave before the Southern District of New York in 2016 about her role and knowledge of the sexual abuse.

Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Maxwell has previously denied allegations of having a role in Epstein’s sex crimes.

Maxwell has previously denied allegations of having a role in Epstein’s crimes, including allegations that she helped recruit young girls and women for him. She has not faced charges until now.

Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney in New York, said Thursday that the majority of charges stem from Maxwell’s alleged involvement between 1994 and 1997. Maxwell’s perjury charges are from a 2016 testimony in which she allegedly repeatedly lied under oath.

“Maxwell lied because the truth as alleged was almost unspeakable,” Strauss said at a news conference. 

“She pretended to be a woman [victims] could trust. All the while, she was setting them up to be sexually abused by Epstein and in some cases by Maxwell herself,” Strauss added.

Epstein, who was convicted in 2008 on an underage prostitution charge, has been accused by dozens of women of sexual abuse — some when they were as young as 14 years old. He died by suicide, a medical examiner ruled, while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking last August in New York.

One of Epstein’s alleged victims, Jennifer Araoz, filed a lawsuit against Epstein’s estate shortly after his death that implicated Maxwell in his crimes. Araoz said she personally did not have contact with Maxwell but that Maxwell was among those in his inner circle who was “maintaining and concealing the sex trafficking ring that Mr. Epstein was involved in,” her attorney has said.

Fellow Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre has also accused Maxwell of having trafficked her to places around the world with Epstein, starting when she was a young teen, where she would be sexually abused.

“Their whole entire lives revolved around sex,” Giuffre said of Epstein and Maxwell in a defamation suit released to the public last August.

Miami Herald via Getty Images
Epstein victims Sarah Ransome, Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Marijke Chartouni (from left) talk about their abuse during an interview in August 2019.

Giuffre has repeatedly alleged that Britain’s Prince Andrew took part in her sexual abuse. Andrew has denied the allegations, but attorney Strauss said prosecutors would “welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk to us.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has pressed for a federal investigation into Epstein’s 2008 “sweetheart” plea deal that allowed him to largely escape prosecution, demanded justice for Epstein’s victims in a statement Thursday.

“Ghislaine Maxwell was complicit in Epstein’s wicked crimes that targeted vulnerable, young girls for their disgusting trafficking ring,” he said in a statement to HuffPost. “Epstein got a crooked, sweetheart deal years ago that protected his coconspirators, like Maxwell. Maxwell has been on the run for months because she too hoped to escape justice. We can’t let that happen again ― her victims deserve their day in court.”