Jeffrey Epstein confidante Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by FBI

British socialite charged with perjury, conspiracy and transporting minors with intent to engage in criminal sex acts.

    Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and close friend of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested in the United States on Thursday on charges of helping to lure underage girls who were then sexually abused by Epstein.

    Maxwell, who lived for years with Epstein, was taken into custody around 8:30am in the state of New Hampshire, said FBI spokesman Marty Feely.

    Epstein killed himself in a federal detention centre in New York last summer while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

    A judge in New Hampshire late Thursday ordered her taken into custody of US Marshals Service and transported to New York for a later hearing on whether she would be be granted bail. Where she will be held in New York is up to the Bureau of Prisons, but she could end up at the same jail where Epstein killed himself.

    Maxwell, 58, has been accused by many women of recruiting them to give Epstein massages, during which they were pressured into sex. Those accusations, until now, never resulted in criminal charges.

    The charges levelled against her on Thursday include two counts of perjury, or lying to investigators, conspiracy, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illicit sex acts, and transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

    Federal prosecutors said in court papers she had "enticed and caused minor victims to travel to Epstein's residence in different states" and that Maxwell would assist in their "grooming for and subjection to sexual abuse".

    Prosecutors said Maxwell was well aware of Epstein's preference for minor girls, and that he intended to sexually abuse them.

    At a news conference on Thursday afternoon, prosecutors said they had been keeping tabs on her for some time.

    "Recently we learned she had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims live with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago," said William Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York office.

    The indictment said Maxwell repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct.

    "Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable," said Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney in Manhattan.

    She added that the Epstein probe remains "ongoing".

    Maxwell has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called some of the claims against her "absolute rubbish".

    American financier Jeffrey Epstein commits suicide in prison (2:34)

    Maxwell is the daughter of late British media magnate Robert Maxwell, who founded a publishing house and owned tabloids including the Daily Mirror. It emerged after Robert Maxwell's mysterious death in 1991 that he had looted hundreds of millions of dollars from employee pension funds to prop up his crumbling business empire.

    In the early 1990s, she moved to New York, where she worked selling real estate. Around that time she became romantically involved with Epstein, who described her in a 2003 Vanity Fair article as his "best friend".

    Maxwell largely disappeared from public view in 2016 and was particularly elusive after Epstein was charged with sex trafficking. The Washington Post reported in August that Maxwell had been living in a secluded oceanfront mansion in Massachusetts owned by a technology entrepreneur, Scott Borgerson, who declined to comment when asked about her location.

    Women who accused Epstein of sexual assault and their lawyers welcomed Thursday's news.

    "Day after day, I have waited for the news that Maxwell would be arrested and held accountable for her actions," said Jennifer Araoz, who has accused Maxwell of helping traffic her for Epstein. "Her arrest is a step in that direction, and it truly means that the justice system didn’t forget about us."

    "The pain she has caused will never go away but today is a step toward healing," lawyer Sigrid McCawley, who represents several women, said of the arrest. "I am so proud of the women we have represented over the last six years who never gave up fighting for justice."

    SOURCE: News agencies