Ghislaine Maxwell arrived in New York some 30 years ago as the young and glamorous emissary of her wealthy and influential father, an international man of mystery.
Robert Maxwell was born Jan Ludvik Hyman Binyamin Hoch in an eastern European shtetl. He lost most of his family in the Holocaust, escaped the Nazis and earned combat honours as a volunteer in the British army as Ivan du Maurier.
After Germany's surrender, he persuaded the Czechoslovakian communist government to supply air power to the Israelis in their 1948 war for nationhood. At the same time, he was establishing himself under yet another name, Maxwell, in postwar England. He became a publisher, a dealmaker, a member of parliament, an empire builder, a cooker of ledger books, a swashbuckler who persuaded the Oxfordshire council to lease to him a mansion donated for more civic purposes by the family of Lady Ottoline Morrell, whose salon hosted Virginia Woolf and TS Eliot.
The youngest of Maxwell's nine children, Ghislaine, hosted parties at the mansion, known as Headington Hill Hall, while at Oxford University. Thus she learned the power of money in making glamorous friends.
She delivered magnificently on her New York assignment, introducing the Maxwell brand to Manhattan's high society in time for daddy's purchase of the Daily News, in 1991. Maxwell's London tabloid war with Rupert Murdoch was going global. But it all fell to pieces. Mysterious to the end, Maxwell pitched over the side of his massive yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, off the coast of Spain as his empire collapsed into a rubble of looted pension funds.
Some said suicide. Some said murder. Some said heart attack. Some said a fat and sleepy old man had just lost his balance. Ghislaine's patron was dead, her family was broke and she was turning 30. An indictment unsealed July 2 in Manhattan's US District Court picks up the story: "From at least 1994 through at least 1997, GHISLAINE MAXWELL assisted, facilitated, and participated in Jeffrey Epstein's abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Jeffrey Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims known to MAXWELL and Epstein to be under the age of 18."
Nearly a year after the arrest and fishy jailhouse suicide of wealthy serial sex abuser Epstein, his friend and alleged procurer Maxwell has followed him into the hoosegow. Her arrest suggests that federal prosecutors are serious about their promise to pursue this scandal beyond Epstein's death. The public still knows too little about the sources of Epstein's jet-owning, mansion-hopping wealth; about his relationships with powerful men, including US president Donald Trump, former president Bill Clinton, Britain's Prince Andrew, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, and billionaire Leslie Wexner; and about the nature of alleged photographs and possible video recordings seized from the safe in his Upper East Side townhouse.
Maxwell likely knows as much as anyone. Whether she'll become a cooperating witness is an open question. The dates in the indictment suggest there is vivid testimony to be had about a lesser-known period in this sordid saga before 2008, when Epstein's Palm Beach sex-trafficking scheme resulted in his conviction for soliciting prostitution involving a minor.
Girls recruited girls, who recruited other girls in turn to "massage" a creepy guy in a mansion. Each new circle of recruitment added a little distance between Maxwell and her friend's insatiable, felonious, perversion.
Ghislaine Maxwell is no slacker in the mystery department. Perhaps instead of inheriting wealth from her father, she inherited his gift for shifting identities. She tried "Epstein's girlfriend," in the 1990s. But he must have broken the news to her that he wasn't into grown-ups. So, the indictment suggests, she adopted a more indispensable persona: his networker.
Now, as men in his cabal watch nervously, another identity beckons: betrayer of Epstein's secrets.