Images entered as exhibits in the trial of disgraced British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell have been released by the New York court at which the case is being heard.
Ms Maxwell is accused of sex trafficking and grooming underage girls to be abused by the late disgraced billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, with whom she had a relationship. She is also accused of directly participating in the abuse.
Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of sex trafficking and other crimes.
In opening statements, Ms Maxwell’s defence team described Epstein’s lifestyle as like that of James Bond, and many of the images released attest to that, showing lavish properties and a fleet of private aircraft.
He maintained a high-profile circle of friends including Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton and Leslie Wexner, and numerous other politicians and celebrities flew in his planes.
However, in 2008 he had pleaded guilty and was convicted of procuring a child for prostitution and soliciting a prostitute and served a 13-month term.
Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on federal charges of sex trafficking minors in Florida and New York. He died in a New York jail cell in August of that year, with his death ruled a suicide by the medical examiner.
His death shifted the focus of the investigation as to what occurred at Epstein’s properties onto Ms Maxwell, who was charged in 2020 with the crimes of enticement of minors and sex trafficking of underage girls.
When Ms Maxwell and Epstein began their relationship in the early 1990s, she became the “lady of the house”, according to testimony by Epstein’s former housekeeper at his property in Palm Beach.
Testimony by the first accuser, “Jane”, described how she was invited to the Palm Beach house when she was 14 and found Ms Maxwell and others topless around the swimming pool.
Epstein’s former housekeeper, Juan Alessi, testified that it was common for there to be many girls topless or naked around the pool, and provided vivid testimony of his time working at the house.
He said there was a strict list of tasks to undertake each day set by Ms Maxwell including not to repeat anything he saw or heard going on at the house.
Mr Alessi confirmed the presence of “Jane” and other young girls at the house, and said one of his tasks was to clean up after Epstein had used his massage room, in which he would find sex toys.
In addition to Ms Maxwell, another figure in Epstein’s life mentioned in court testimony was Sarah Kellen, his personal assistant, who is said to have arranged travel for the girls and even escorted them to his room.
Ms Kellen has not been indicted and considers herself a victim of Epstein, claiming to have been recruited into his world at a vulnerable time and then being sexually and psychologically abused by him.
Among Epstein’s other properties that have been referenced by the court are his townhouse in New York; his ranch, “Zorro”, in New Mexico; and his private island in the Caribbean – Little St James, near St Thomas.
The sprawling New Mexico property was remote and centred on a vast house. The victim known as “Jane” recalled visiting the property and feeling “watched”.
Most famously, Epstein’s Caribbean property has been the cause of much speculation over the past few years regarding who visited and what went on there. Ms Maxwell is also under investigation by the US Virgin Islands Department of Justice regarding events in the Caribbean territory.
To travel between all of these properties, Epstein had a fleet of aircraft, including a Boeing jet that notoriously became known as the “Lolita Express” for its alleged role in ferrying underage girls between his properties. There was also a private helicopter for travelling from St Thomas to the private island.
The trial heard from Epstein’s longtime pilot Larry Visoski, who recalled flying “Jane” in the Gulfstream jet, as well as having passengers on board including Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Kevin Spacey.
Mr Visoski also testified that in 30 years he had never seen Epstein nor Ms Maxwell be inappropriate with underage girls.
The trial continues.
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