Ghislaine Maxwell arrested, accused of luring girls into sex abuse

An acting US attorney speaks during a news conference to announce charges against Maxwell in New York. (AP pic)

NEW YORK: Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and longtime associate of the late accused sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested in New Hampshire on Thursday on US charges of helping to lure underage girls who were then sexually abused by Epstein.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Maxwell about 8.30am in Bradford, New Hampshire, an agency spokeswoman said on Thursday.

She was expected to appear in federal court in New Hampshire on Thursday to discuss her bail or continued detention, according to a law enforcement official.

Epstein was awaiting trial on charges of trafficking minors when he was found hanged in an apparent suicide while in a New York City jail in August.

The indictment charged Maxwell, 58, with conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

She was also charged with two counts of perjury, according to the indictment by the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss.

A lawyer who represented Maxwell in civil litigation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The indictment accuses Maxwell of luring the girls by asking them about their lives, schools and families and taking them shopping or to the movies.

After winning the girls’ trust, the indictment alleges she would try to “normalise sexual abuse” by discussing sexual topics or by undressing in front of the victims or being present when a victim was undressed.

The indictment alleges that Maxwell was well aware of Epstein’s preference for minor girls and that he intended to sexually abuse them.

Epstein’s alleged abuse included touching their genitals, placing sex toys on their genitals and having the girls touch Epstein while he masturbated.

Maxwell also encouraged the young girls to massage Epstein, and in some cases, the victims were partially or fully nude during the massages.

Maxwell, the daughter of late British media magnate Robert Maxwell, has kept a low profile since the death of Epstein, a financier who was accused of raping and trafficking underage girls over nearly two decades.

Some of Epstein’s alleged victims have said Maxwell lured them into his circle, where they were sexually abused by him and powerful friends.

Maxwell was an ex-girlfriend of Epstein who became a long-time member of his inner circle.

In a 2003 Vanity Fair article, Epstein was quoted as saying Maxwell was his “best friend”.