Ghislaine Maxwell and others linked to Jeffrey Epstein under FBI investigation

Principal focus of inquiry is British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell and other ‘people who facilitated’ Epstein’s allegedly illegal behavior

The FBI is investigating the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell and several other people linked to the US financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation told Reuters.

They said a principal focus of the FBI’s investigation is Maxwell, a longtime associate of Epstein, and other “people who facilitated” Epstein’s allegedly illegal behavior.

Maxwell, who has been named in several civil lawsuits claiming she played a key role in Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking scheme, has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing. Her lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.

The FBI also is following up on many leads received from women who contacted a hotline the agency set up at its New York field office in the wake of Epstein’s arrest in July, the sources said.

One of the sources said the investigation remains at an early stage.

The sources declined to give further details or identify the people they are looking at apart from Maxwell. However, they said the FBI has no current plans to interview Britain’s Prince Andrew, a friend of Epstein’s who stepped down from his public duties in November because of what he called his “ill-judged” association with the well-connected money manager.

Contacted by the Guardian, an FBI spokeswoman declined comment on the report.

A representative for the British royal family said that whether the agency interviewed Andrew was “a matter for the FBI”.

Gloria Allred, the lawyer for five of the pedophile financier’s alleged victims, all of whom have spoken to law enforcement, said in a statement that news reports that the FBI is investigating Maxwell “are not surprising” because “Ms Maxwell was part of Jeffrey Epstein’s inner circle for many years.”

“Since the US justice department has stated that it would continue their investigation into anyone who may have knowingly conspired with Epstein to sex traffic underage girls, it would be logical that the FBI would want to interview anyone in Epstein’s inner circle, including Ms Maxwell, to determine who may or may not have assisted Epstein in committing his crimes against children,” she said.

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Allred continued: “Jeffrey Epstein could not have committed his crimes without the assistance of others. If there is sufficient evidence to prove that others may have criminal culpability, then they should be charged and be accountable in a court of law.”

Epstein’s suicide in August, at age 66, came a little over a month after he was arrested and charged with trafficking dozens of underage girls as young as 14 from at least 2002 to 2005. Prosecutors said he recruited girls to give him massages, which became sexual in nature.

He had pleaded not guilty.

Following Epstein’s arrest, the FBI urged anyone who had been victimized by Epstein or had additional information to call the agency’s hotline.

The US attorney general, William Barr, vowed to carry on the case against anyone who was complicit with the financier.

“Any co-conspirators should not rest easy,” he said in August.

The sources said they had received numerous tips from the hotline, which they are looking into.

Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s alleged victims, has said in a civil lawsuit that Maxwell recruited her into Epstein’s circle, where she claims Epstein forced her to have sex with him and friends including Andrew.

Maxwell has called Giuffre’s allegations lies. Giuffre in response filed a defamation suit against Maxwell in 2015.

Giuffre repeated the claims about the prince in a BBC interview that aired this month.

Andrew, 59, also categorically denies the accusations and has said he has no recollection of meeting Giuffre, who was previously named Virginia Roberts.

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The two law enforcement sources said the FBI’s principal focus is on people who facilitated Epstein and that Andrew does not fit into that category. They did not rule out the possibility that the FBI would seek to interview Andrew at a later date.

At the time of Epstein’s arrest last year, Maxwell, understood to be “Employee No 1” in the financier’s federal indictment on sex trafficking charges, had been accused by at least three women in affidavits and court filings of recruiting and training young women for sex with Epstein. In two of those lawsuits, Maxwell was herself accused of sexual assault.

But despite being identified by one accuser of being Epstein’s “highest-ranking employee”, she remains outside a 2007 non-prosecution deal Epstein made with US federal prosecutors in Miami that named four women as potential co-conspirators.

In a 2009 deposition, a former house manager for Epstein testified that Maxwell was his “main girlfriend” starting around 1992. Three years later, Epstein renamed a Palm Beach company he controlled to Ghislaine Corp, which was dissolved in 1998, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In civil lawsuit depositions against Epstein in 2009 and 2010, household employees also claimed Maxwell was a central figure in his private life with responsibility for hiring, firing and supervising household staff, while directing a retinue of “massage therapists”.

In a 2006 affidavit, Maria Farmer claimed she was assaulted by Maxwell and Epstein – an incident she later reported to New York police and the FBI. Another civil litigant, Sarah Ransome claimed Maxwell ordered her to have sex with Epstein.

Lawyers for Maxwell wrote in a March 2018 filing that Ransome voluntarily entered the relationship, echoing an earlier claim by Epstein that Ransome was not a victim of sex-trafficking and that the relationship was between consensual adults. The lawsuit was settled in 2018.