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New files ordered released in the Ghislaine Maxwell case reveal the depth of her involvement in child sex-trafficking offences that implicate Prince Andrew, the former leader of the US senate and others. By Richard Cooke.

Opening the Ghislaine Maxwell files

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in New York in 2005.
Credit: Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Orgies with Bill Clinton. An unnamed hotel-chain owner. A foreign president. Prince Andrew, blackmailed with under-age sex. These were among the stunning revelations in a tranche of documents ordered released by a federal court in New York City, as part of the ongoing legal tribulations of Ghislaine Maxwell. Maxwell, 58, was the one-time girlfriend of sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein, whose suicide gripped the United States and the world last year. Maxwell’s lawyers have been trying to keep these legal documents sealed since 2015, when they made up part of a civil defamation case brought by one of Epstein’s victims. Now that Maxwell herself has been charged, with sex trafficking and perjury, these astonishing documents are in the public domain.

Maxwell is the daughter of the Czech–British newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, once the owner of Mirror Group Newspapers and Macmillan book publishing house. Though Robert Maxwell had nine children, Ghislaine (pronounced “ghi-lane”) was reportedly his favourite: his 180-foot superyacht Lady Ghislaine took its name from her. In 1991, Robert Maxwell disappeared from the ship, which was moored off Tenerife in the Canary Islands; his body was later found in the sea. Two days after his death, a mourning Ghislaine made a statement while standing on the yacht’s deck. She believed her father was murdered, and would go on to reject all the official findings that pointed to accident, heart attack or suicide.

Post-mortem, Robert Maxwell’s empire collapsed into a mire of bad debts and criminal charges, and so Ghislaine Maxwell relocated to New York for a fresh start. It came in the shape of the other man who has come to define her life: Jeffrey Epstein. The two dated, and then the exact nature of their relationship became uncertain, even to close acquaintances. The investment banker Euan Rellie, an occasional dinner guest at Epstein’s New York townhouse, described Maxwell to The New York Times as “half ex-girlfriend, half employee, half best friend, and fixer”. She introduced Epstein to her powerful connections on both sides of the Atlantic, and cemented a fateful bond between the billionaire and Prince Andrew.

Today she is sometimes described as “Epstein’s pimp”, although this does not cover the venality of the allegations against her. She stands accused both as a conspirator and as a predatory paedophile herself. The impetus for these fresh charges was Epstein’s own second arrest in 2019 for sex trafficking, but the sensational information now flooding the press is tied to another trial that is civil rather than criminal. In 2015, one of Epstein’s victims, an Australian named Virginia Giuffre, was able to bring a civil defamation case against Maxwell when the latter publicly called her a liar. Giuffre says she first met Maxwell at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate 20 years ago, and that Maxwell approached her for the “purpose of being trafficked”.

Giuffre won an undisclosed settlement in 2017, and Maxwell’s lawyers have been busy ever since, trying to prevent the release of the documents and depositions her case uncovered. They finally failed, and almost simultaneously their client was sought for arrest. Last seen in the public eye in 2016, Maxwell was apprehended in Bradford, New Hampshire, where she had been living as a near-fugitive. Her New Hampshire property, appropriately named Tuckedaway, was purchased through a series of deceptions: Maxwell used a shell company, Granite Reality, and then masqueraded as a journalist named Jen Marshall.

It was at Tuckedaway that Maxwell, seeing approaching agents, tried to flee to another room. When she was searched, arresting officers discovered that her mobile phone was wrapped in tinfoil. At her bail hearing, these actions were used, successfully, to paint her as a flight risk. Maxwell tried to argue she should be detained at a luxury Manhattan hotel. Instead, she is currently imprisoned at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where she is on suicide watch, wearing paper clothes and under the blaze of a light that is never turned off.

Maxwell cried in the courtroom when her bail was denied. The emotion came not only from self-pity but also from fear: her dread at being jailed is understandable. It was on August 10, 2019, that Jeffrey Epstein was found unresponsive at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, and never regained consciousness. He had been awaiting trial on a fresh tranche of sex-trafficking charges, and, according to his jailers, hanged himself in his cell.

The timing and circumstances of this death were highly unusual: none of the cameras supposed to be monitoring his status returned usable footage, guards falsified their schedule of welfare checks, and prison authorities breached crime scene procedure, failing to photograph his body as it was found. Polling shows that most Americans believe Epstein was murdered, and even the US attorney-general, William Barr, entertained the theory for a time.

Epstein’s own legal team has made public statements that his death was consistent with murder, and Maxwell reportedly shares that belief. “Everyone’s view, including Ghislaine’s, is Epstein was murdered,” an unnamed friend told The Sun in Britain. “She received death threats before she was arrested.” According to papers filed by federal prosecutors in New York, an unidentified Maxwell sibling had recently hired former British soldiers as bodyguards for Ghislaine.

This time, Attorney-General Barr has himself guaranteed her safety. He wants to ensure she reaches court in July 2021, where she will face federal charges that are numerous and serious. In media interviews, witness statements and depositions, survivors allege that Maxwell recruited girls from locations such as art shows and college campuses. One set of charges details not only the abuse of one girl, an artist, but also the assault of her under-age sibling.

The criminal charges focus on a period between 1994 and 1997, the period during which Maxwell was identified as Epstein’s girlfriend. Prosecutors allege Maxwell would train the girls she recruited as “masseuses”, and in many cases they would be abused by Maxwell, Epstein and others, sometimes simultaneously. Maxwell is believed to have groomed girls as young as 14, and authorities believe they can present a strong case. Maxwell is also being charged with perjury, for giving statements during other legal proceedings that can now be proved false.

During Maxwell’s bail hearing, a woman named Annie Farmer told the court Maxwell was a “sexual predator” who had groomed and abused her and “countless other children”. Farmer and her sister Maria are the first Epstein survivors to have filed a police complaint, centring on actions that took place in 1996. Twenty-five years later, the sisters will give evidence as key witnesses against Maxwell.

“That woman was much more sinister than Epstein, and to me, much more dangerous,” Maria Farmer told the British Daily Mail. “She was definitely the mastermind. She was in charge.” Farmer told the press that Maxwell would leave the house about 3pm each day, when school was ending, shouting, “I need to get the nubiles!” Virginia Giuffre was interviewed by the FBI but reportedly will not give evidence, and no criminal charges were filed as a result. However, depositional material from her defamation trial, ordered released last week, appears to confirm this remorseless focus on under-age girls.

Giuffre has been able to substantiate some of her prior claims – she was photographed alongside Prince Andrew when she was a minor, and a witness saw them together at a nightclub the evening Giuffre says she was raped by the prince at Maxwell’s London property. The just-released documents contain even more shocking material that condemns the uppermost echelons of the global elite. Giuffre alleges that Maxwell first trained her as a sex slave, and then pimped her to powerful friends of Epstein.

As well as the Duke of York, these include Alan Dershowitz, emeritus professor at Harvard law school and the man who brokered Epstein’s controversial plea deal; George Mitchell, the former leader of the US senate, who also brokered the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland; the French model scout Jean-Luc Brunel; and a coterie of politicians and rich businessmen. Abusers who had their names redacted in the filings include a prince, a hotelier and a “famous scientist”.

Some of the material, if ruled admissible, may harm Maxwell’s defence. This year, her attorneys stated she had ceased all contact with her former lover for more than a decade. Emails now prove otherwise. In 2015 they conspired to discredit Giuffre and collaborated on the wording of Maxwell’s public statements. In one message, Epstein wrote: “You have done nothing wrong and I would urge you to start acting like it.” Ghislaine Maxwell did not follow his advice. 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 8, 2020 as "Three halves of Ghislaine Maxwell".

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Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.