Trial of Ghislaine Maxwell to begin in New York

Socialite facing charges over alleged role in abuse of girls by financier Jeffrey Epstein

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and long-time companion of Jeffrey Epstein, will go on trial in New York today on charges related to her alleged role in sexual abuse of young girls by the billionaire financier who died by suicide in jail in 2019.

Following TV documentaries and media stories regarding the Epstein case, containing lurid details and focusing on several extremely wealthy and well-known individuals, the trial is expected to be one of the most closely followed in recent years.

Prosecutors allege Maxwell (59) groomed girls as young as 14 to have sex with Epstein over a number of years after 1994 at his homes in New York, Florida and New Mexico. They also contend she lied about her knowledge of his abuse during a defamation suit filed against her by an Epstein accuser, Virginia Giuffre.

Ms Giuffre alleges that Epstein and Ms Maxwell forced her into sex acts with Britain’s Prince Andrew when she was 17. Ms Maxwell insists she is innocent. The Duke of York maintains he did nothing wrong.

Ms Giuffre’s claims are not expected to form part of the proceedings in court in New York on Monday. The issues arising from the defamation suit are expected to be dealt with separately.

Ms Maxwell faces six counts in the forthcoming trial: conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts; enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts; conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors; and sex trafficking of minors. If convicted, she could face decades in prison.

Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all charges. She is expected to argue that she was charged only after the financier’s death in 2019 while he was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges and she is now effectively “Epstein’s proxy”.

Arrested in July 2020

She has been in custody for almost 17 months, after the judge in the case repeatedly denied requests for bail.

Following her arrest in July 2020, prosecutors alleged she had lured girls into a trap and that she had played “a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims” and that “in some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse”.

Ms Maxwell, an Oxford-educated British socialite, is the youngest daughter of former media tycoon Robert Maxwell. He was once one of the richest men in Britain but following his death off the Canary Islands in 1991 it emerged he had siphoned hundreds of millions of pounds from employee pension funds to prop up his business empire.

Ms Maxwell is being strongly supported by her family in the forthcoming trial.

Her brother Ian Maxwell told the Associated Press news agency in the United States at the weekend that his sister's prosecution was "the most overhyped trial of the century" designed to ensure someone is held accountable for Epstein's crimes.

“This is designed to break her; I can’t see any other way to read it . . . And she will not be broken because she believes completely in her innocence and she is going to give the best account she can. This is not quite a put-up job, but nonetheless has been cobbled together so that Ghislaine is made to face the charges that Epstein never faced,” said Ian Maxwell.

‘Inhumane’ treatment

The family have demanded she be released on bail, arguing that the conditions of her detention are tantamount to torture, preventing her from assisting her defence lawyers.

Last week the family sought the United Nations to investigate what they describe as the "inhumane" treatment of Ghislaine Maxwell.

Ian Maxwell said his sister is in "effective isolation" at the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn, where she is being held in a 1.8m x 2.7m (5ft 11in x 8ft 10in) cell with no natural light, a toilet and concrete bunk.

She is unable to sleep because she is watched around the clock by four guards and 10 cameras due to unwarranted concerns she constitutes a suicide risk, he said.

Ian Maxwell said in the interview with the news agency that “denial of bail is wholly inappropriate. The authorities are feeling under pressure . . . because they lost [Epstein] and they’re feeling under the public’s pressure; and that combination of pressure is keeping Ghislaine inside. But it still doesn’t make it right.”