British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell said under oath in 2016 that she had never witnessed “inappropriate underage activities” by the late US financier Jeffrey Epstein, according to a deposition released on Thursday that she had fought hard to keep secret.
Maxwell, 58, has pleaded not guilty to helping Epstein recruit and groom underage girls as young as 14 to engage in illegal sexual acts in the mid-1990s, and not guilty to perjury for having denied involvement in any such scheme when she gave her deposition under oath.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
In the April 2016 deposition from a now-settled civil defamation lawsuit against Maxwell by Virginia Giuffre – who has said Epstein kept her as a “sex slave” with Maxwell’s assistance – she did not answer directly whether she believed Epstein sexually abused minors.
She said instead that the only allegations she knew came from Giuffre, whom she called a “liar.”
Maxwell, daughter of the late British publisher Robert Maxwell, was asked questions about her relationship with Epstein, who employed her to help run his properties, and allegations by Giuffre, according to the transcript.
“I never saw any inappropriate underage activities with Jeffrey ever,” she said.
“I can’t testify to what Jeffrey did or didn’t do,” Maxwell said. She later added: “I can only testify to what I know and the fact that she (Giuffre) has lied about me from the beginning to the end and repeatedly causes me to question anything that she may feel.”
Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer for Giuffre, said in a statement that the deposition’s release was “a long-time coming and a welcome step towards revealing the evidence of the scope and scale of the Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking ring.”
Giuffre and the Miami Herald newspaper had sought the unsealing.
Denial of wrongdoing
US District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan had directed that a transcript of Maxwell’s testimony and other documents be released.
Epstein once counted US President Donald Trump, former US President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Prince Andrew as friends. They have not been accused of criminal wrongdoing.
Giuffre has said she was trafficked by Epstein and forced to have sex with his friends, including Andrew when she was 17 years old. Andrew has denied the allegations.
Maxwell denied introducing Britain’s Prince Andrew to underage sex partners in the deposition made public on Thursday, calling the prince’s accuser an “awful fantasist.”
She said she could not recall taking Giuffre out for a night of clubbing with Andrew in London. “Her tissue of lies is extremely hard to pick apart what is true and what isn’t.”
Maxwell testified that she flew on Epstein’s planes with Clinton but would not characterise the two men as friends or acquaintances and said she was never on one of Epstein’s private islands with Clinton.
“One of (the) lies she told was that President Clinton was on the island where I was present. Absolutely 1000% that is a flat out total fabrication and lie,” Maxwell said in a deposition that lasted 9-1/2 hours.
Lawyers for Maxwell did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
While Maxwell repeatedly denied wrongdoing, she was asked several times whether any indecent activities were taking place in Epstein’s orbit. Her lawyers have said the fact the questions were asked could suggest to the public that Giuffre’s lawyers believed they might have had a basis to ask them, even if the conduct never happened.
Jailed pending trial
Lawyers for Maxwell had argued that making the deposition public could imperil her ability to get a fair trial, because jurors might hold its contents against her. A trial is scheduled for July 2021.
Maxwell was arrested on July 2 in Bradford, New Hampshire, where authorities said she was hiding on a property she bought in December in an all-cash transaction with her identity shielded. She is locked up in a Brooklyn jail after the judge in her criminal case called her an unacceptable flight risk.
Maxwell told lawyers that she was employed by Epstein and hired assistants, architects, decorators, cooks, cleaners, gardeners, pool people and pilots as part of the upkeep of six homes, according to the transcript, which takes up 418 pages.
“… a very small part of my job was from time to time to find adult professional massage therapists for Jeffrey,” the transcript said.
Maxwell appeared evasive as a lawyer for Giuffre pressed her on whether she hired Giuffre to give Epstein an erotic massage.
“Virginia Roberts held herself out as a masseuse and invited herself to come and give a massage,” Maxwell testified.
The deposition and other documents were cleared for release after the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan on Monday rejected Maxwell’s “meritless” arguments that her interests outweighed the presumption the public should see the materials.
Many names in the transcript of the deposition were blacked out.
Epstein killed himself at age 66 in August 2019 at a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges announced the previous month.
He had previously escaped federal prosecution by pleading guilty in 2008 to Florida state prostitution charges, an agreement now widely considered too lenient.
Asked why she maintained contact with Epstein after his guilty plea, Maxwell responded that she was “a very loyal person and Jeffrey was very good to me when my father passed away and I believe that you need to be a good friend in people’s hour of need and that it was a very thoughtful, nice thing for me to do …”