Who is the real Ghislaine Maxwell: Epstein Empowerment or Pawn?

Who is the real Ghislaine Maxwell: Epstein Empowerment or Pawn?

New York Ghislaine Maxwell spent the first half of her life with her father, a poverty-stricken billionaire who ransacked his companies’ pension funds and died under mysterious circumstances. She spent the second with another wealthy mogul, Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while being accused of sexually assaulting teens.

After a life of scandal and luxury, Maxwell’s trial in the United States will set out.

Starting Monday, New York prosecutors will say Maxwell, 59, instigated Epstein’s crimes with girls as young as 14. Key question for the jurors: Was Maxwell an unwitting pawn to manipulate Epstein or an opportunist who knows?

Ian Maxwell told the Associated Press that his sister is “paying a heavy price, a price in blood” for a justice system bent on holding someone responsible for Epstein’s crimes.

Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, grew up in a 51-room English country mansion where high-society parties peppered trumpeters and fireworks. BBC photos from that time show Ghislaine as a child with a child-sized plate of food, learning how to be a networking expert.

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Her father, Jan Ludvik Hoch, was born to Yiddish-speaking parents in what is now southwestern Ukraine. To escape the Holocaust, he eventually joined the British Army and turned to Robert Maxwell.

Maxwell built on his military connections to found a publishing empire that eventually included the British tabloid Daily Mirror, New York Daily News, and book publisher Macmillan. He married, had nine children, was twice elected to Parliament – and earned a reputation for miserable and domineering behaviour.

Ghislaine was Maxwell’s youngest child, born on Christmas Day 1961. Her 15-year-old brother, Michael, suffered severe brain damage in a car accident just days later. Her mother, Elizabeth Maxwell, wrote in her memoirs that their infant daughter had been overlooked as a result: at the age of three, Ghislaine proclaimed, “Mummy, I exist!”

“I was devastated,” Elizabeth Maxwell wrote. “From that day on, we all put so much effort into her, and teased her so much that she became spoiled, the only child of my children I could really say that about.”

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While at Oxford University, Ghislaine Maxwell began building high-level relationships. After graduation, she worked for her father and, in 1991, became his envoy to the United States after he bought the Daily News amid efforts to compete with media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Later that year, Robert Maxwell fell from his yacht – Mrs. Ghislaine – and drowned in what some considered an accident and others a suicide. Investors would discover that his fortune was an illusion: He diverted hundreds of millions of pounds from pension funds to prop up his empire.

Shortly after his death, Ghislaine Maxwell was photographed sitting next to Epstein during a memorial.

Ian Maxwell said her relationship with Epstein developed after the family advised her to stay in the US because Maxwell’s name was tainted in the UK, and she had to make new friends in New York, he said.

One of those was with Epstein, who at one time was a teacher who built his fortune on the back of his solid acquaintances.

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“My dad was a tough guy—you know, an alpha guy, really. When you have that kind of experience, all of us, all brothers and sisters have to deal with that somehow,” said Ian Maxwell. That’s to say, “Well, you know, he dies, and then you move on to the next rich guy. I just don’t buy that.”

In sworn testimony in a previous civil case, Ghislaine Maxwell admitted she dated Epstein but said she later became his employee, tasking with things like hiring staff for his six homes.

“A very small part of my job was finding a professional adult massage therapist for Jeffrey,” Maxwell said during his 2016 testimony. “And as far as I’m concerned, everyone who came to his house was an adult professional.”

But in 2005, Epstein was arrested in Palm Beach, Florida, on charges of hiring several underage girls to perform sexual acts. He pleaded guilty to the charge of procuring a person under the age of 18 to engage in prostitution and spent 13 months in prison.

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This was followed by years of civil lawsuits, in which women accused Epstein and Maxwell of sexual assault. New York prosecutors charged Epstein with sex trafficking in 2019, but he killed himself in prison before trial.

The indictment against Maxwell is based on accusations from four women who say she recruited them to provide Epstein massages that turned into sexual assault. Maxwell occasionally engaged in sexual encounters and was involved in paying at least one defendant, prosecutors allege.

Annie Farmer claims that she was 16 years old when she was tricked into visiting Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico under the guise of attending a fake event for college students. She said Maxwell tried to clean her up by taking her to the movies and shopping, and giving her unwanted massages while the teen was topless.

The Associated Press does not identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly. Although not identified in court documents, Farmer described her experience to ABC and The New York Times. When Maxwell requested bail, Farmer asked the judge to deny her, calling her a “psychopath.”

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US District Judge Alison J. Nathan repeatedly released Maxwell on bail, leaving her isolated in a small cell with a toilet and a concrete bed.

Prosecutors say Maxwell went into hiding after Epstein’s suicide, moved into a gated house in New Hampshire – with a husband her lawyers refused to identify publicly – and wrapped her cell phone in foil to ward off hacking.

Maxwell has mostly kept quiet about Epstein’s allegations, but in a 2016 affidavit, she said she learned of the charges “like everyone else, like the rest of the world, when they were announced in the papers.”

She said she had never seen Epstein get a massage from anyone under 18 and that no one had ever complained to her about asking Epstein to have sex.

With Epstein gone and no clear recordings of the alleged incidents, the jury will soon decide who to believe.

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Kirka reported from London.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

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