British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and long-time associate of Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire.
An indictment that has been made public says Ms Maxwell facilitated the disgraced financier’s crimes by “helping Epstein to recruit, groom and ultimately abuse” girls as young as 14.
It also said she participated in the sexual abuse.
The Oxford-educated Ms Maxwell, 58, has kept a low profile since the death of Epstein, who was accused of raping and trafficking underage girls over nearly two decades.
She lived for years with Epstein and was his frequent travel companion on trips around the world.
Ms Maxwell has, for years, been accused by many women of recruiting them to give Epstein massages, during which they were pressured into sex.
Those accusations, until now, never resulted in criminal charges.
Ms Maxwell, 58, was arrested in New Hampshire, where the FBI said it had been keeping tabs on her.
“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 live with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago,” William Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York office, said on Thursday.
She was due to appear in federal court on Thursday, US time.
The indictment included counts of conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and two counts of perjury.
“Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable,” Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney in Manhattan, said.
She called the charges against Ms Maxwell a “prequel” to charges prosecutors brought in 2019 against Epstein.
Messages were sent on Thursday to several of Ms Maxwell’s lawyers seeking comment.
Britain’s Prince Andrew, who faces allegations stemming from his friendship with Epstein, has been urged to give a statement to authorities.
Ms Strauss said federal prosecutors “would welcome Prince Andrew coming in” to speak with them for the “the benefit of his statement”.
“Our doors remain open, as we have previously said, and we would welcome his coming in and giving us an opportunity to hear his statement,” she said.
Ms Maxwell has previously repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called some of the claims against her “absolute rubbish”.
The six-count indictment in Manhattan federal court alleges that she helped Epstein groom girls as young as 14, as early as 1994.
“In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims,” the indictment says.
The ninth child of disgraced newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, Ms Maxwell has denied any involvement in or knowledge of Epstein’s alleged sexual misconduct.
Epstein died in prison on August 10, 2019, as he awaited, without the chance of bail, his trial on sex trafficking charges.
He was arrested in 2019 in New York following allegations that he was running a network of underage girls – some as young as 14 – for sex.
His death was determined to be suicide.
One of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, has accused Ms Maxwell of recruiting her as a masseuse to the financier at the age of 15.
Ms Giuffre – who now lives in Australia – has alleged Prince Andrew sought advice from Ms Maxwell via emails sent in the hours after Ms Giuffre lodged court papers in Florida alleging her sexual abuse.
BBC reports that another of Epstein’s alleged victims, Sarah Ransome, has told Panorama that Ms Maxwell worked closely with him.
She said: “Ghislaine controlled the girls. She was like the madam. She was like the nuts and bolts of the sex trafficking operation.”
Ms Ransome said Ms Maxwell would visit Epstein on his private island in the Caribbean “to make sure that the girls were doing what they were supposed to be doing”.
“She knew what Jeffrey liked. She worked and helped maintain Jeffrey’s standard by intimidation, by intimidating the girls, so this was very much a joint effort,” she said.
Ms Maxwell denies wrongdoing.
Earlier this year Ms Maxwell sued Epstein’s estate, seeking reimbursement for legal fees and security costs.
She “receives regular threats to her life and safety”, court documents in that case said.