Updated: December 6, 2022
After the apparent suicide of US financier Jeffrey Epstein, his former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, has come into the spotlight.
Questions are being asked about what role she may have played in procuring underage girls for the financier.
Epstein died in a New York prison cell on 10 August as he awaited, without the chance of bail, his trial on sex trafficking charges.
Details of the allegation against Ms Maxwell emergedin documents unsealed by a US judgelast week in a 2015 defamation case.
Virginia Giuffre, an alleged victim of Epstein, accused Ms Maxwell of recruiting her as a masseuse to the financier at the age of 15.
She sued Ms Maxwell in 2015 for defamation – a case which has since been settled – after the media heiress, daughter of the late newspaper tycoon, Robert Maxwell, said Ms Giuffre was a liar.
Ms Maxwell denies any wrongdoing.
Born on Christmas Day in 1961 outside Paris, Ms Maxwell is Oxford-educated and said to speak several languages,
A well-connected socialite, she is said to have introduced Epstein to many of her wealthy and powerful friends, including Bill Clinton and the Duke of York(who was accused in the court papers of touching a woman at Jeffrey Epstein’s US home, although the court subsequently struck out allegations against the duke).
Buckingham Palace has said that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors” by the duke was “categorically untrue”.
Friends said that although Ms Maxwell and Epstein’s romantic relationship lasted only a few years, she continued to work with him long afterward,the Washington Post reports.
“She had an upbringing and tasteand knew how to run a house and a boat and how to entertain,” an acquaintance is quoted by the UK’s Daily Telegraph as saying. “You can’t buy that. You can’t buy access, either.”
In a Vanity Fair profile published in 2003,Epstein said Ms Maxwell was not a paid employee, but rather his “best friend”.
In court documents, former employees at the Epstein mansion in Palm Beach describe her as the house manager, who oversaw the staff, handled finances and served as social co-ordinator, the Post reports.
Close to her father
Ms Maxwell is the daughter of disgraced newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, his ninth and youngest child.
She is said to have had a very close relationship with her late father, and he named his luxury yacht – the Lady Ghislaine – after her.
It was near this yacht that his body was found in the sea off the Canary Islands in November 1991.
Although a verdict of accidental drowning was recorded, the mystery surrounding the circumstances of his death was never cleared up.
He had succeeded in building a global publishing empire, but after his death, it emerged that he had taken money from pension funds of his Mirror Group Newspapers to keep his companies afloat and boost the share price.
Soon after her father’s death, Ms Maxwell left the UK to settle in America, where she worked in real estate, and not long after met Jeffrey Epstein.
She is now believed to have left the US, having sold her Manhattan townhouse in 2016, and has generally kept a low profile since the allegations began to emerge, reports say.