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Ghislaine Maxwell: From high-flying socialite to convicted sex trafficker

Ghislaine Maxwell sunbathing on a yacht (US Dept of Justice/PA)
Ghislaine Maxwell sunbathing on a yacht (US Dept of Justice/PA)

Ghislaine Maxwell was once a “sophisticated” and “very impressive” British socialite until her affiliation with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein led to her detention for sex trafficking.

The daughter of disgraced media tycoon Robert Maxwell, the 60-year-old attempted to start a new life in Manhattan after his death in 1991 and met Epstein the following year.

Mr Maxwell was found drowned after apparently falling from his yacht – called Lady Ghislaine – off the Tenerife coast.

His sons, Ian and Kevin Maxwell, who were on the board of the Maxwell Communication Corporation, were investigated after their father’s death over an alleged conspiracy to defraud the company’s pension fund. Both were cleared of fraud in 1996.

Ghislaine Maxwell court case
Maxwell lived a life of luxury before her detention in the US (US Department of Justice)

Despite attempts from Maxwell’s defence counsel to distance her from Epstein, a vast array of photographs of the pair in a variety of exotic locations surfaced during her trial – with images of her massaging the convicted sex offender’s feet suggesting a close relationship.

Her trial in a federal court in the Southern District of New York heard the pair bragged about being friends with high-profile figures, including former US president Donald Trump.

With the fortune he made from his financial dealings, Epstein and Maxwell lived a life of luxury jetting around the world and living at the millionaire’s many properties: including a Manhattan town house, his Palm Beach mansion, a ranch in New Mexico and his private island in the US Virgin Islands.

Ghislaine Maxwell court case
Photos appeared to show Maxwell and Epstein had a close relationship (US Department of Justice)

Maxwell’s friends also included royalty. She had known the Duke of York since her days at university and introduced Andrew to her former partner, Epstein.

In a Newsnight interview, Andrew admitted he organised a shooting weekend for the defendant at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate.

In 2000, he was pictured in Thailand attending a “hooker and pimps” party with Maxwell.

But an allegation that he had sex with Virginia Roberts on three separate occasions – once allegedly at Maxwell’s Belgravia home – ultimately damaged his reputation.

Aurelia Cecil Wedding Duke of York
Maxwell’s trial heard she bragged of having high-profile friends such as the Duke of York (Chris Ison/PA)

Maxwell was featured in the background of a picture which apparently showed Andrew with his arm around the waist of Ms Roberts, also known as Virginia Giuffre.

The duke categorically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Ms Roberts.

Epstein was convicted in 2008 of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, and Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire on July 3 last year.

Her trial heard how she summoned a 14-year-old girl to an orgy, groped another teenager and laid a schoolgirl outfit out for another accuser before a sexualised massage with Epstein because she “thought it would be fun”.

Ghislaine Maxwell court case
The Duke of York denies any form of sexual contact with Virginia Roberts, also known as Virginia Giuffre (US Department of Justice)

Epstein killed himself in a federal detention centre in New York in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

In her opening statement to the jury, Lara Pomerantz, United States Assistant Attorney, said of Maxwell: “She preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused.

“The defendant was trafficking kids for sex. That is what this trial is all about.”

Defending the socialite, her counsel, Bobbi Sternheim, told the jury: “The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things Jeffrey Epstein did.

“But she is not Jeffrey Epstein.”

Maxwell denied all charges but was ultimately convicted on five of six counts by a jury just after Christmas and her 60th birthday.

She will be sentenced on Tuesday.