Epstein ‘madam’ arrest puts Andrew back in spotlight
The FBI arrested alleged paedophile pimp and fallen socialite Ghislaine Maxwell after they found she had "slithered away to a gorgeous property" in rural New Hampshire.
As prosecutors called again for Prince Andrew to give evidence in their continuing investigation into notorious billionaire sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, they talked of the life of "privilege and luxury" Maxwell had enjoyed for the past year.
Maxwell was arrested early on Thursday local time by the FBI and child sex crimes investigators and charged with six counts including conspiracy to entice minors into sex with herself and Epstein, transporting minors for sex and perjury.
"Today, after many years, Ghislaine Maxwell finally stands charged for her role in these crimes," said Audrey Strauss, Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
"Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable. Maxwell enticed young girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into a trap that Epstein had set for them."
Ms Strauss said New York prosecutors wanted to speak to Prince Andrew about Maxwell. He has strongly denied accusations by one of Epstein's accusers that she was forced by Maxwell and Epstein to have sex with him.
"I will say we would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk to us. We would like to have the benefit of his statement," Strauss said.
"Our doors remain open, as we previously said and we would welcome him coming in."
Buckingham Palace said they would not comment on Maxwell's arrest.
"This is not something for us to comment on," a spokesman said.
Celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who is representing several Epstein victims, called on Prince Andrew to be interviewed by US authorities.
"The arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell is a major development and demonstrates that the criminal investigation is serious and that it continues," Ms Allred said in a statement.
"It is long overdue for Prince Andrew to stop making excuses and to stop playing the victim. He should contact the FBI immediately and agree to appear for an interview."
The Duke has so far refused to give evidence about his relationship with Epstein despite the US Department of Justice formally requesting the British Home Office question him about his ties.
He previously disclosed that the pair became associates in 1999, after Maxwell introduced them, and has faced heated criticism for continuing the friendship until at least 2010.
This was after Epstein had served an 18 month jail term in Florida for soliciting prostitution with a minor.
The scandal has also drawn in the daughter of former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, Katherine Keating, who was filmed farewelling Andrew at the front door of Epstein's New York mansion when he was staying there in 2010.
There is no suggestion Ms Keating, who was reportedly friends with the Duke, knew of any wrongdoing by Epstein.
FBI Assistant Director Bill Sweeney said the FBI had been "discretely keeping tabs" on Maxwell's location as they built their case over the past year.
He said the arrest came after the FBI learned that she had "slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege".
Maxwell is accused of procuring young women and girls for Epstein over several years.
An FBI indictment filed in New York on Thursday local time charged her with six counts including conspiracy to entice minors, transporting minors and perjury.
"Maxwell assisted, facilitated and contributed to Jeffery Epstein's abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims," the indictment said. "The victims were as young as 14."
A photo of Epstein hugging Maxwell was included in the indictment.
Her accusers include Virginia Roberts Giuffre, an Australian-based mother who has also claimed she was forced by Epstein and Maxwell to have sex with Prince Andrew.
Maxwell and Prince Andrew have denied the allegations.
A spokeswoman for Prince Andrew said the Duke of York would not be commenting on Maxwell's arrest.
Epstein, 66, killed himself last August in a federal jail in New York after he was arrested on child sex trafficking charges.
Maxwell's whereabouts has been unknown for months.
She was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire and being held by New York prosecutors, according to the FBI.
Maxwell was due to appear in federal court on Thursday, local time.
Epstein's victims have repeatedly called for Maxwell, the daughter of disgraced media mogul and fraudster Robert Maxwell, to face charges.
Her arrest comes days before the anniversary of Epstein's arrest last July.
Maxwell had been accused of working as a "pimp" to lure young women to work at Epstein's homes in Miami, New York, New Mexico and an estate in the US Virgin Islands.
Ms Roberts has detailed how Maxwell approached her when she was working at a Florida beach club in 2000 and offered her a job as a masseuse at the Palm Beach home of financier Epstein.
Maxwell had denied the charges through previous lawsuits. She was arrested in the small city of Bradford, New Hampshire, at 8.30am (10.30pm AEST) on Thursday.
The indictment alleges Maxwell groomed young women from 1994 until at least 1997 and that she and Epstein knew they were aged under 18 years.
"In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims," it says.
The 18 page document lays out how Maxwell and Epstein, who were in a relationship at the time, allegedly befriended the young women by "taking them to the movies and shopping" before "normalising" sexual behaviour.
"Maxwell's presence during minor victims' interactions with Epstein, including interactions where the minor victim as undressed or that involved sex acts with Epstein, helped put the victims at ease because an adult woman was present," it states.
The pair would also allegedly coerce the women, many of whom have previously been described as vulnerable, by offering them gifts or financial assistance.
"As a result, victims were made to feel indebted and believed that Maxwell and Epstein were trying to help them," it alleges.
"Through this process, Maxwell and Epstein enticed victims to engage in sexual activity with Epstein."
The indictment also includes images of Epstein's multimillion-dollar property portfolio, saying the abuse took place at his homes New York, New Mexico, Palm Beach and at "Maxwell's personal residence in London".
The alleged victims are not named but referred to by number. Victim-1 was 14 years old when she travelled with the pair, who were in an intimate relationship, to Epstein's properties in New York and Florida.
Victim-2 was aged under 18 when she was groomed through the use of intimate massages by Maxwell at New Mexico around 1996, it alleges.
Victim-3 was allegedly "groomed and befriended" by Maxwell in London between 1994 and 1995 when she was a minor and was induced to give "sexualised massages" to Epstein.
Maxwell is also accused of perjury for lying under oath in a 2016 deposition in a civil suit brought by one of Epstein's victims.
She allegedly replied: "I don't know what you're talking about" when asked if she knew about Epstein's "scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages".
"I wasn't aware that he was having sexual activities with anyone when I was with him other than myself," she allegedly replied.
Maxwell has previously denied she was aware of or participated in any sexual assaults.
Originally published as Epstein 'madam' arrest puts Andrew back in spotlight