Jeffrey Epstein: France demands its own investigation into paedophile financier, days after his death in prison

Ministers say ‘fundamental’ probe will allow victims the ‘justice they deserve’

Tom Embury-Dennis
Monday 12 August 2019 17:13 BST
Jeffrey Epstein found dead in prison ahead of sex trafficking trial

France’s government is demanding an investigation into Jeffrey Epstein‘s links to the country following his “apparent suicide” in a New York prison cell.

In a joint statement, two ministers in Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet said it was “fundamental” that a separate probe be launched so that the paedophile financier’s death “doesn’t deprive the victims of the justice they deserve” and to protect other girls from “this kind of predator”.

Marlene Schiappa, secretary of state for gender equality, and Adrien Taquet, secretary of state for protecting children, added the US probe into Epstein’s abuse of teenage girls had “highlighted links with France”.

Francois Durpaire, an historian on US and French affairs, told BFM TV Epstein was “very fond” of France and that the 66-year-old owned properties in Paris, Nice and Biarritz.

“Whenever there is a place related to Epstein, there is a case that is related to Epstein,” he said.

US authorities say Epstein had a residence in Paris and used a fake Austrian passport to travel to France in the 1980s.

In an open letter addressed to the Paris public prosecutor on Monday, French charity Innocence in Danger also urged for a probe into Epstein.

The children’s organisation said there was an “international dimension” to the US prosecution against Epstein that includes “several people of French nationality”.

Innocence in Danger “has recently confirmed that several victims of the prostitution network, created by Jeffrey Epstein and his accomplices, are also of French nationality,” the letter said.

The Paris prosecutor’s office did not immediately comment.

In the US, the details of how Epstein died in his Manhattan jail cell over the weekend have yet to be released, but medical officials have performed an autopsy on him.

His abrupt death on Saturday cut short a criminal prosecution that could have pulled back the curtain on the inner workings of the high-flying financier with connections to celebrities and presidents, though prosecutors have vowed to continue investigating.

Epstein had been denied bail and faced up to 45 years behind bars on federal sex-trafficking and conspiracy charges unsealed last month. He had pleaded not guilty and was awaiting trial.

The manner in which he died remains a mystery, but guards on Epstein’s unit were working extreme overtime shifts to make up for staffing shortages the morning of his apparent suicide, a person familiar with the jail’s operations told The Associated Press.

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The person said that the Metropolitan Correctional Centre’s Special Housing Unit was staffed with one guard working a fifth straight day of overtime and another who was working mandatory overtime. The person was not authorised to discuss jail operations publicly and spoke on Sunday on condition of anonymity.

Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found a little over two weeks ago with bruising on his neck, according to the person familiar with the matter. But he was taken off the watch at the end of July, the person said.

His removal from suicide watch would have been approved by both the warden of the jail and the facility’s chief psychologist, said Jack Donson, a former prison official who worked for the Bureau of Prisons for more than two decades.

Last week, more than 2,000 pages of documents were released, related to a since-settled lawsuit against Epstein’s ex-girlfriend by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers.

The records contain graphic allegations against Epstein, as well as the transcript of a 2016 deposition of Epstein in which he repeatedly refused to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself.

Attorney general William Barr said he was “appalled” by Epstein’s death in a statement announcing the Justice Department’s inspector general would be investigating the circumstances of what officials have said was an apparent suicide.

“I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody,” the attorney general said. “Mr Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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