Ghislaine Maxwell: Who is Jeffrey Epstein's mysterious right-hand woman, why was she arrested — and where has she been?

The elusive British socialite's arrest has people asking many questions - including why it's taken so long to place her in custody

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 02 July 2020 15:29 BST
Virginia Giuffre tells Panorama Ghislaine Maxwell patted her on the back and said she'd 'made Prince Andrew really happy'

Ghislaine Maxwell’s arrest by the FBI on sex abuse charges was a long time coming for prosecutors and others following the case, and yet news that Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime, elusive confidant was in custody came as a shock to many.

For starters, nobody seemed to have any idea where she even was before Thursday morning, when senior law enforcement officers confirmed Maxwell was arrested in Bedford, New Hampshire around 8.30am.

The heiress — a former British socialite — had seemingly disappeared into thin air last year, after Epstein was arrested and later killed himself in federal custody while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Maxwell was charged in a six-count indictment that alleged she was “present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims” as young as 14-years-old, as part of Epstein’s sex trafficking ring that dated back to 1994.

Though she has long faced accusations of serving as a liaison between Epstein and the young woman he allegedly abused, Maxwell avoided all charges over the years — until now — and repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

But sex crimes prosecutors told The Independent in August of last year that it was only a matter of time until Epstein’s alleged chief co-conspirator would face her day of justice — and their accusers would finally get the chance to hold someone accountable for the abuses they said they faced at the hands of the disgraced billionaire and his right-hand woman.

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“Right now, everything depends on Maxwell,” Ambrosio Rodriguez, criminal defence attorney and former sex crimes prosecutor, said after Epstein died of an apparent suicide. “The public at large may not know her whereabouts, but I can guarantee you the FBI knows exactly where she is.”

Where has she been?

Prior to Thursday, rumours swirled over where in the world Maxwell could possibly have been hiding as investigators continued to pursue Epstein’s associates.

Vanity Fair covered allegations that she was “living the high life in London” while other tabloids suggested she was hunkered down in a Massachusetts oceanfront property.

Those same outlets claimed she was hiding out with Scott Borgerson, her supposed high-profile tech CEO boyfriend, while a friend of Maxwell’s told the Daily Beast she may have been in France.

It was all a mystery — that is, until Maxwell was seen eating at an In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles, California, reading a book titled The Book of Honour: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives.

“Well, I guess this is the last time I’ll be eating here!” Maxwell said after someone snapped her photo, according to the New York Post.

Maxwell’s detention memo argued she presented a “clear risk of flight” that was “exacerbated by the transient nature” of her lifestyle.

The memo stated: “In particular, the defendant has effectively been in hiding for approximately a year, since an indictment against Epstein was unsealed in July 2019. Thereafter, the defendant — who had previously made many public appearances — stopped appearing in public entirely, instead hiding out in locations in New England.”

“More over, it appears that she made intentional efforts to avoid detection, including moving locations at least twice, switching her primary phone number (which she registered under the name ‘G Max’) and email address, and ordering packages for delivery with a different person listed on the shipping label,” the memo read.

The memo also indicated Maxwell “appears to have been hiding on a 156-acre property acquired in an all-cash purchase in December 2019 (through a carefully anonymized LLC) in New Hampshire.

Why was she arrested?

The indictment outlines the charges Maxwell faces, from conspiracy to entice minors to engage in sexual acts and travel to engage in illegal sex acts, to conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and two counts of perjury.

According to the indictment, Maxwell “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein's abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18”.

Maxwell could be the key to unlocked Epstein’s world of crimes: investigators have said she kept a little black book documenting travel and lodging arrangements for the paedophile and his high-level associates. Were she to cooperate with investigators, Maxwell could implicate many others who circle Epstein and face potential charges amid ongoing probes, including Prince Andrew.

Her indictment was signed by acting SDNY US attorney Audrey Strauss, who was elevated to the position just two weeks ago amid a contentious public feud between US Attorney General William Barr and Ms Strauss’ boss, Geoffrey Berman.

Mr Berman declined to resign despite a public statement from the attorney general claiming he left the post. Mr Barr attempted to replace Mr Berman with a US attorney of his choice.

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