August 15, 2019

Ghislaine Maxwell: The missing woman who may hold the key to resolving Epsteins crimes
After Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide in a New York City jail cell, the public’s focus has shifted towards his alleged chief co-conspirator - the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime associate of the accused child sex trafficker.Of all the questions her involvement with Epstein has raised, one is particularly pressing for investigators: where is she?“Right now, everything depends on Maxwell,” Ambrosio Rodriguez, a criminal defence attorney and former sex crimes prosecutor, told The Independent. “The public at large may not know her whereabouts, but I can guarantee you the FBI knows exactly where she is.”On Wednesday, one of Epstein’s accusers filed a lawsuit against Ms Maxwell, alleging she conspired with members of the disgraced financier’s household staff “to make possible and otherwise facilitate the sexual abuse and rape” the alleged victim said she experienced in 2002 aged 15.And a source familiar with the criminal investigation into Epstein told The Independent that federal prosecutors were looking at names mentioned in connection to his crimes, which would include Ms Maxwell.But they have reportedly faced challenges in locating the 57-year-old Briton, who has been accused of procuring young girls for his sexual pleasure, something she has repeatedly and forcefully denied. Ms Maxwell has never been charged with any crimes and has previously denied all accusations of wrongdoing.In 2016 she was sued for defamation by one of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, for calling allegations against her “obvious lies”. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. Ms Giuffre had said that she was groomed from the age of 15 by Ms Maxwell and forced to have sex with Epstein and several powerful men, all of whom have denied the allegations.Ms Maxwell has virtually removed herself from the public eye since then. She was living in London two years ago with no fixed address, her lawyers told a judge in 2017. This week Vanity Fair wrote about rumours that she has been living in Florida or “living the high life in London or the Continent”, while the Daily Mail said she was staying in a sprawling oceanfront property in Massachusetts with her supposed tech CEO boyfriend Scott Borgerson. Mr Borgerson immediately denied those reports. A friend told the Daily Beast they thought she was in France.On Thursday the New York Post published a photograph of her sitting in a burger bar which it said had been taken in Los Angeles a few days earlier. It said she told the fellow customer who took it: "Well, I guess this is the last time I'll be eating here."If Ms Maxwell or other alleged co-conspirators were living abroad, experts said her extradition to the United States in the event of her being charged with a criminal offence would be the next challenge.“Federal prosecutors are very accustomed to dealing with this problem of a defendant who is not in the country,” said Deborah Tuerkheimer, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan.“In a case of such importance, and when there’s so much on the line, it would not be surprising at all for federal prosecutors to do everything in their power to secure the attendance of an alleged co-conspirator.”Regardless of her whereabouts, Ms Maxwell’s legal troubles are mounting in the wake of Epstein’s death."Today is my first step towards reclaiming my power," Jennifer Araoz said during a phone call with reporters after filing the lawsuit against Ms Maxwell, Epstein’s estate and three unnamed female staff members. "Jeffrey Epstein and his network of enablers stole from me … They robbed me of my youth, my identity, my innocence, my self-worth. For too long, they escaped accountability. I am here today because I intend to change that."Ms Araoz’s lawyer, Dan Kaiser, described those who surrounded Epstein as “adult enablers,” telling NBC News: “Adults closely within Epstein's orbit — they are all culpable. … They shared with each other connections and resources to keep these crimes concealed.”In a statement, Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman described the apparent suicide as “yet another hurdle to giving Epstein’s many victims their day in court”.But he added: “Our investigation of the conduct charged in the indictment — which included a conspiracy count — remains ongoing.”Former sex crimes prosecutors said the indictment makes clear that Epstein was not working alone. The charging document said several members of his apparent inner circle helped procure his victims, later offering them money and other favours.“Epstein wouldn’t be able to exist without Maxwell,” Mr Rodriguez said. “Every successful pimp relies on a woman to recruit other women. That is part and parcel with these type of crimes.”A controversial non-prosecution agreement Epstein made in 2007 could make it difficult to charge his alleged co-conspirators. That deal included a clause that would prevent the investigation or prosecution of any of his alleged accomplices. Politicians, including the Republican senator Ben Sasse, have now called on the attorney general to nullify the agreement.The Southern District of New York had already managed to get around the terms of that secretive deal when it charged Epstein earlier this year, however. Experts said the same could likely be done in order to charge anyone else involved in that agreement.“If they were able to go after Epstein I’m assuming that a court agreed with their interpretation of the agreement and, based on the prosecution of Epstein, I see no reason that others would not fall into that category of prosecutable offences,” Ms Tuerkheimer said.Still, an indictment does not always lead to a conviction.“The credibility of the accusers will be really important,” she added. “Very often the victims of child sexual abuse are chosen, targeted and groomed because they’re especially vulnerable, and those vulnerabilities make it very difficult for people to testify at trial, make them susceptible to attacks on cross examination, and often make it difficult for people to believe their stories.”Prior to the allegations surrounding her and Epstein going public, Ms Maxwell lived a privileged life. She enjoyed a wealthy childhood as the daughter of the Czech-born British media mogul and one-time MP Robert Maxwell, whose plundering of the Mirror Group’s pension fund made him one of the most notorious corporate villains of modern times. He died in an apparent suicide after falling from his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, off the Canary Islands in 1991.Ms Maxwell was educated at Oxford University, and worked in newspapers and real estate, before meeting Epstein in New York in the early 1990s and becoming a prominent socialite. She also founded a charity to help preserve the oceans called the TerraMar Project, which closed this year amid the controversy over Epstein.For now, the location of Ms Maxwell — and what comes next in terms of her legal fate — remains shrouded in mystery. Top US officials have vowed to answer those questions in the days ahead.“Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” attorney general William Barr said this week while criticising “serious irregularities” at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York where Epstein was apparently allowed to take his life.“Any co-conspirators should not rest easy,” he added. “The victims deserve justice, and we will ensure they get it.Attorneys for Ms Maxwell did not return multiple requests for comment.
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