France charges Epstein ex-associate over sex crime claims

Prominent French modelling agent Brunel charged with rape of minors over the age of 15 and sexual harassment.

Protesters and members of the news media gather outside Manhattan Federal Court, during the arraignment hearing of Ghislaine Maxwell, in New York
Brunel founded MC2 Model Management in the United States with Epstein [Mike Segar/Reuters]

French prosecutors said they have charged and imprisoned prominent French modelling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, a former close associate of disgraced American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, over alleged sex crimes.

Brunel was charged with rape of minors over the age of 15 and sexual harassment, said a statement from the prosecutors’ office on Saturday.

He was initially detained on Wednesday at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport as he was about to board a plane.

French police had been seeking 74-year-old Brunel since an investigation was opened in August last year.

A call for witnesses in September 2019 saw several former models come forward with details of alleged attacks spanning three decades.

The Paris probe targets “acts of sexual nature likely to have been committed by Jeffrey Epstein and possible accomplices”, the prosecutor’s office said.

His ownership of an apartment in an upmarket Paris district and allegations from women who say they were abused in France prompted French prosecutors to open their own investigation.

Brunel co-founded the Karin Models agency in the 1990s, and founded MC2 Model Management in the United States with Epstein.

In a court filing, Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers, claimed Brunel would offer modelling work to young girls, and take girls as young as 12 to the United States so he could “farm them out to his friends, especially Epstein”.

Giuffre also claimed that Brunel was among several prominent men Epstein’s former associate Ghislaine Maxwell directed her to have sex with, court papers show.

Maxwell, who has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges, is in a New York jail awaiting trial.

Epstein, who was arrested in New York in July 2019 on charges of trafficking underage girls for sex, was found hanged in his New York jail cell the following month while awaiting trial over abuses involving girls at his Palm Beach home and on his private island in the Caribbean.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies