By Julia Webster
August 14, 2019

After the death of Jeffrey Epstein in a New York jail, focus has shifted to the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, a close friend of the financier who has been accused in lawsuits––including one filed Wednesday––of helping him recruit and groom girls for sexual abuse.

Maxwell has repeatedly denied allegations that she helped build a sex trafficking network run by Epstein. Epstein died in an apparent suicide in his jail cell Aug. 10.

Statements from authorities suggest the multi-millionaire’s death will turn the criminal investigations toward potential co-conspirators. “Let me assure you that case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said on Monday. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy.”

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

Maxwell, 57, is the ninth and youngest daughter of British publishing and media mogul Robert Maxwell.

She is a well-connected socialite who has been photographed in parties with several prominent politicians, princes and entrepreneurs, including Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.

According to Tom Bower, one of Robert Maxwell’s biographers, Ghislaine Maxwell was born in Paris, grew up in England and studied at Balliol College, Oxford.

In 1991, her father was found dead in the Atlantic ocean near the Canary Islands, where he had been sailing his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine––named after his daughter. Shortly after his death, it was reported that he had committed a massive fraud by plundering his employees’ pensions to keep his companies afloat.

What was Maxwell’s relationship with Epstein?

The nature of Maxwell’s relationship with Epstein is not clear. While it was apparently romantic initially, Maxwell later became more of a close friend to Epstein, but has also been alleged to be his “procurer” and “madam” by Epstein’s accusers.

The two reportedly met in New York in the early 1990s, where Maxwell had moved after her father’s death.

She reportedly introduced Epstein to a number of her powerful friends including Prince Andrew. Queen Elizabeth’s second son has also been caught up in allegations. One of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, said in a lawsuit that the prince was one of the men she was coerced into sexual encounters with.

A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said in a statement, “It is emphatically denied that The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts [Giuffre]. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.”

What is she accused of?

Maxwell has never been charged with a crime related to Epstein. However Giuffre and Araoz have accused Maxwell in lawsuits of grooming and recruiting underage girls for abuse.

Giuffre alleged in a lawsuit that Maxwell recruited her as a masseuse for the financier in 2000, when she was 16 or 17 and working at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida.

In 2015, Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation after the media heiress called her a liar. Some 2,000 pages of documents from the case were unsealed by a federal appeals court last week, revealing details of allegations against Maxwell.

Another woman, Johanna Sjoberg, testified that Maxwell recruited her to work for Epstein under the guise of a legitimate job for answering phones, but was then forced to perform sexual favors, according to a lawsuit.

Jennifer Araoz, the latest accuser to come forward, filed a lawsuit against Maxwell and three other unnamed former Epstein staffers on Wednesday, saying they “conspired with each other to make possible and otherwise facilitate the sexual abuse and rape.” In an opinion piece she wrote in the New York Times, she said: “Epstein never operated alone. He had a ring of enablers and surrounded himself with influential people.”

Maxwell’s lawyers did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment. She has denied the allegations both in the press and in court. In 2011, she released a statement that said, in part: “The allegations made against me are abhorrent and entirely untrue and I ask that they stop.”

Where is she now?

According to the Washington Post, authorities are having a hard time locating her.

Since accusations against Epstein started to mount she slowly distanced herself from him and withdrew from the public eye. According to the New York Times, her New York townhouse was sold for $15 million in 2016 and she is believed to be living in the U.K., where she still owns property.

Write to Julia Webster at julia.webster@time.com.

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