'We have been discreetly keeping tabs on Maxwell's whereabouts' - FBI
Ghislaine Maxwell was being "discreetly" tracked by federal law enforcement as they collected the evidence needed to finally bring charges against her, investigators have revealed.
Ms Maxwell, the 58-year-old former girlfriend of late accused sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested yesterday and charged with multiple crimes in relation to the investigation into Epstein's alleged abuse of minors.
Her arrest could have significant implications for the many powerful figures who have been accused by Epstein's victims of having taken part in the abuse.
Maxwell's whereabouts have been the subject of intense speculation since Epstein's arrest and apparent suicide in custody last year. Media reports have alleged that she was living in Paris, London and Israel. But the FBI said they had been monitoring her movements as their investigation proceeded, before finally swooping on her latest location in a luxury mansion in New Hampshire.
"We have been discreetly keeping tabs on Maxwell's whereabouts as we worked this investigation," said William Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York Field Office, at a press conference. "More recently, we learned she had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims lived with the trauma inflicted on them years ago."
Ms Maxwell's indictment was signed by acting Southern District of New York (SDNY) US attorney Audrey Strauss, who repeated a call for Prince Andrew -- who has been linked to the investigation by one of Epstein's alleged victims -- to come forward. "We would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk to us, we would like to have the benefit of his statement," Ms Strauss said.
Investigators would like to speak to the prince about a claim by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein's alleged victims, that she was forced to have sex with Epstein and Prince Andrew, a claim that both Maxwell and the Duke of York have repeatedly denied.
Asked whether Prince Andrew intends to submit a statement following the US attorney's remarks, a source close to the Duke's legal team told The Independent that "the Duke's team remains bewildered given that we have twice communicated with the DOJ in the last month, and to date, we have had no response".
Ms Maxwell, a former British socialite, had seemingly disappeared into thin air last year, after Epstein was arrested and later killed himself in federal custody while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. She was detained in New Hampshire yesterday, and stands accused of being a knowing and willing facilitator of Epstein's abuse over a number of years, and of lying to about her actions under oath.
"Maxwell assisted, facilitated and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein's abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18," the indictment reads.
Prosecutors have now revealed more details about her movements during that time. According to the indictment filed in a Manhattan court, she has been hiding out in various locations in New England in the last year. More recently, she appears to have been living on a 156-acre property in Bradford, New Hampshire, which she bought last December in an all-cash purchase, using a limited liability company to shield her identity. The prosecutors did not reveal the source of the money used to purchase the property.
Her ability to move freely over the past year while the investigation progressed has frustrated Epstein's victims. In yesterday's press conference, Mr Sweeney praised those victims, and the investigators who worked to bring the charges against Ms Maxwell.
"The example set by the women involved has been a powerful one. They persevered against the rich and connected, and they did so without a badge, a gun, or a subpoena -- and they stood together," he said. "I have no doubt the bravery exhibited by the women involved here has empowered others to speak up about the crimes of which they've been subjected."
Acting US attorney Strauss said that Ms Maxwell, as well as facilitating Epstein's abuse, engaged in it herself. "As alleged, Ghislaine Maxwell facilitated, aided, and participated in acts of sexual abuse of minors. Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, and then delivered them into the trap that she and Jeffrey Epstein had set. She pretended to be a woman they could trust. All the while, she was setting them up to be abused sexually by Epstein and, in some cases, Maxwell herself."
Prosecutors said Ms Maxwell faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.
Independent News Service