Ghislaine Maxwell: How the publishing baron’s daughter became Epstein’s procurer

Former socialite jailed for luring girls, some as young as age 14, into financier’s abusive world

When Ghislaine Maxwell arrived in New York City in 1991, she seemed like the perfect candidate for its elite social scene. The British socialite’s father, UK publishing titan Robert Maxwell, had dispatched her to launch an international magazine called the European, as part of his sprawling media conglomerate.

Robert Maxwell had also purchased the New York Daily News in March of that year, around the time of her arrival, further boosting her status, as ownership of that tabloid once conveyed real-world influence. Maxwell’s pedigree and appearance further enhanced her profile.

The Oxford-educated Maxwell cut an impressively attractive figure; she was about 5ft 8in, with a slim frame and bold dark hair, her “defined cheeks” drawing notice. She had a polished English accent.

By year’s end, however, Maxwell’s position among New York City’s power players was imperilled: Robert Maxwell died in a boating accident on his yacht, Lady Ghislaine, on November 5th 1991. Shortly after Robert Maxwell’s death, it was revealed that £460 million was missing from his businesses’ pension funds.

Maxwell faced financial and social ruin, decamping from a “very large” Columbus Circle residence to a mere studio apartment within months of her father’s death. But one of Maxwell’s new associates, the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, stood by her side.

Three decades later, Maxwell’s relationship with Epstein would come to a sordid conclusion. Following an international criminal drama that culminated in Maxwell’s sex-trafficking conviction, she was sentenced on Tuesday to 20 years in jail for luring girls, some as young as age 14, into Epstein’s abusive world.

The pair were romantically linked early on, and in 1992, Maxwell was managing Epstein’s Palm Beach estate, setting the stage for her long-time management of his various properties. Maxwell appeared to have assumed the role of Epstein’s procurer by 1994.

That year, Maxwell met Kate in Paris. She brought Kate, then 17, into Epstein’s orbit shortly thereafter, luring her into sexual encounters with him under the false pretence of providing massages.

Kate testified that Maxwell’s relationship with Epstein appeared to pay financial dividends, saying, “she told me that she owned her house in New York City, and that Jeffrey had got it for her”. David Rodgers, Epstein’s long-time pilot, said that Maxwell’s residences changed while she dated the businessman — owning a town house on East 65th street around the late 1990s.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Epstein transferred in excess of $30 million to Maxwell’s bank accounts from 1999 to 2007. Their romance ended in the early 2000s, and Maxwell stopped working for him.

Despite their split, Maxwell remained in high-profile social circles. She began dating Ted Waitt, the co-founder of Gateway Computers. The tech billionaire’s “cheque-writing helped secure her place at conferences as they replaced benefit galas as the first-tier social gatherings of the late aughts”, the New York Times reported.

The immense benefits Maxwell enjoyed from her association with Epstein imploded in 2007. That year, Epstein came to a controversial plea deal that permitted him to avoid federal charges for child-sex crime accusations.

Maxwell was protected by a non-prosecution agreement, but she was not insulated from negative publicity. Waitt grew weary of this imbroglio, and they broke up in 2010. He had donated $12 million to Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation, however, which helped Maxwell maintain ties to the former first family. With connections forged at Clinton family conferences, Maxwell launched an ocean charity called TerraMar in 2012. The New York Times noted that TerraMar had a website, and raised funds, but didn’t seem to give out any grants.

In the mid-2010s, Maxwell found herself under scrutiny yet again. Virginia Giuffre openly accused Maxwell and Epstein of forcing her into a sexual encounter with Prince Andrew when she was only 17.

Maxwell responded by calling her a liar, and Giuffre hit back with a defamation suit in 2015. The suit was settled in 2017, and it appeared that the controversy had largely subsided.

Late in 2018, Epstein’s crimes once again drew international attention when the Miami Herald’s Julie K Brown published a bombshell series that prompted outrage over his non-prosecution agreement.

Epstein was arrested for sex trafficking in July 2019. He died by suicide in jail about one month after his arrest.

Epstein’s victims, denied justice once again, were allowed to speak in court following his death. Five women named Maxwell as an enabler or participant in his abuse.

All eyes were turned to Maxwell, with many wondering whether she would be prosecuted. One year after Epstein’s arrest, federal prosecutors in Manhattan revealed that Maxwell was arrested at her estate in Bradford, New Hampshire. She was charged with sex crimes, conspiracy and perjury, for her role in Epstein’s sexual abuse of minors.

Maxwell went on trial for sex trafficking and related crimes in November 2020. The prosecution presented 24 witnesses over the course of 10 days, and her team brought nine witnesses to the stand over a two-day period.

After 40 hours of deliberations, spanning six days, jurors found Maxwell guilty. Her fate was handed down in a New York courtroom six months later: 20 years in jail.

Maxwell maintains her innocence. — Guardian

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