08:25 GMT25 January 2020
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    Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of late British media tycoon Robert Maxwell, is thought to have been Jeffrey Epstein’s girlfriend in the 1990s, but the nature of their relationship after that remains unclear. Epstein’s alleged victims claim Maxwell had procured underage girls for him, which she denied.

    The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an investigation into Ghislaine Maxwell, the presumed “madam” for Jeffrey Epstein, Reuters reports citing sources familiar with the matter.

    They said that Maxwell is at the centre of the investigation, which also targets others who have “facilitated” alleged sexual abuse in Epstein’s case. It is also understood that the Bureau doesn’t intend, at least currently, to interview Prince Andrew, who stepped away from public duties last month over his connection with the late hedge fund manager.

    Epstein was found dead in his New York prison cell in August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. He had been accused of running a “vast network” of underage girls for sex, charges he denied.

    Ghislaine Maxwell has been keeping a low profile since 2016 and has not been seen in public since the accusations were levelled against Epstein. What was thought to be her first photo in three years was taken in Los Angeles this August, but a number of discrepancies with that photo led to widespread suggestions that it had been faked by her lawyer.

    US financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry
    © REUTERS / Handout
    US financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry

    Maxwell, who just turned 58, was reported to have been in a romantic relationship with Epstein in the early 1990s; she remained associated with him further on and even appeared alongside him in public. As per The Wall Street Journal, former employees of Epstein’s household had referred to Maxwell as his “main girlfriend” in a 2009 deposition.

    Maxwell and Epstein hadn’t been seen together in public since he was released from jail in 2009 after serving 13 months for soliciting a minor for prostitution.

    Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s alleged victims, accused Maxwell in a 2015 lawsuit of essentially acting as a “madam” for Epstein, i.e. recruiting and grooming girls for the financier. Maxwell dismissed those accusations and called the woman a liar, prompting the latter to sue her for libel (that suit was settled in 2017, apparently in Giuffre’s favour). A number of Epstein’s accusers have also identified her in separate cases as playing a key role in procuring the victims for the predator and sexually assaulting them together with him.

    FBI, sexual assault, Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell
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