British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell said under oath in 2016 that she had never witnessed "inappropriate underage activities" by her former partner Jeffrey Epstein, according to a deposition released on Thursday that she had fought hard to keep secret.
Ms Maxwell (58) has pleaded not guilty to helping the convicted sex offender recruit and groom underage girls as young as 14 to engage in illegal sexual acts in the mid-1990s, and not guilty to perjury for having denied involvement in any such scheme when she gave her deposition under oath.
The April 2016 deposition came from a now-settled civil defamation lawsuit against Ms Maxwell by Virginia Giuffre, who has said Epstein kept her as a "sex slave" with Ms Maxwell's assistance.
Epstein died by suicide in August 2019 at a federal jail in Manhattan, where he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Ms Maxwell, daughter of the late British publisher Robert Maxwell, was asked questions about her relationship with Epstein, who employed her to help run his properties, and allegations by Ms Giuffre, according to the transcript.
“I have never seen anybody have sexual intercourse with Jeffrey, ever,” she said, and later: “I never saw any inappropriate underage activities with Jeffrey ever.”
As for Ms Giuffre, she said: “I never ever at any single time at any point ever at all participated in anything with Virginia and Jeffrey. And for the record, she is an absolute total liar.”
Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer for Ms Giuffre, said in a statement that the deposition’s release was “a long-time coming and a welcome step towards revealing the evidence of the scope and scale of the Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking ring”.
US district judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan had directed that a transcript of Ms Maxwell's testimony and other documents be released.
Epstein, a multi-millionaire financier, once counted US president Donald Trump, former US president Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew as friends. They have not been accused of criminal wrongdoing.
Ms Maxwell testified that she flew on Epstein’s planes with Mr Clinton but would not characterise the two men as friends or acquaintances and said she was never on one of Epstein’s private islands with Mr Clinton.
“One of [the] lies she told was that president Clinton was on the island where I was present. Absolutely 1,000 per cent that is a flat out total fabrication and lie,” Ms Maxwell said under oath in a deposition that lasted 9½ hours.
Lawyers for Ms Maxwell did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
While Ms Maxwell repeatedly denied wrongdoing, she was bombarded with questions about whether any indecent activities were taking place in Epstein’s orbit. Her lawyers have said the fact the questions were asked could suggest to the public that Ms Giuffre’s lawyers believed they might have had a basis to ask them, even if the conduct never happened.
Lawyers for Ms Maxwell had argued that making the deposition public could imperil her ability to get a fair trial, because jurors might hold its contents against her. A trial is scheduled for July 2021.
Ms Maxwell was arrested on July 2nd in Bradford, New Hampshire, where authorities said she was hiding on a property she bought in December in an all-cash transaction with her identity shielded. She is being held in a Brooklyn jail after the judge in her criminal case called her an unacceptable flight risk.
Ms Maxwell told lawyers that she was employed by Epstein and hired assistants, architects, decorators, cooks, cleaners, gardeners, pool people and pilots as part of the upkeep of six homes, according to the transcript, which takes up 418 pages.
“... a very small part of my job was from time to time to find adult professional massage therapists for Jeffrey,” the transcript said.
Questioned by lawyers on whether she hired them, Ms Maxwell replied: “When I meant hire, I didn’t mean hire in the way you are doing it. What I say is that I went to spas and I met people and if they did home visits, Jeffrey would then, in fact, hire them. I’m not responsible for hiring someone. And they were not full-time, so it’s not a correct characterisation.”
Ms Maxwell’s deposition and other documents were cleared for release after the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan on Monday rejected her “meritless” arguments that her interests outweighed the presumption the public should see the materials.
Many names in the transcript of the deposition were blacked out.
Ms Giuffre, who has been one of Epstein’s most visible accusers, and the Miami Herald newspaper, which investigated Epstein’s conduct and successful bid in 2007 to avoid federal sex trafficking charges, had sought the unsealing.
Epstein previously escaped federal prosecution by pleading guilty in 2008 to Florida state prostitution charges, an agreement now widely considered too lenient.
Asked why she maintained contact with Epstein after his guilty plea, Ms Maxwell responded that she was “a very loyal person and Jeffrey was very good to me when my father passed away and I believe that you need to be a good friend in people’s hour of need and that it was a very thoughtful, nice thing for me to do” and helped with any issues with his homes.
Ms Giuffre has said she was trafficked by Epstein and forced to have sex with his friends, including the Prince Andrew when she was 17 years old. The prince has denied the allegations. – Reuters