A longtime associate of late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has been arrested in France.
Jean-Luc Brunel, 74, was detained at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris as he was about to board a flight to Dakar, Senegal, the public prosecutor’s office revealed on Friday morning (Australian time).
The French modelling agent is accused of rape and sexual assault of minors over and under 15 years of age.
He is also alleged to have recruited hundreds of women and girls for Epstein, who was found dead in his New York prison cell last August while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
Girls were lured to Epstein’s home in Palm Beach and a private island in the Caribbean, but it was his ownership of a luxury apartment in Paris that prompted French prosecutors to initiate their investigation in August.
Multiple women had come forward to police about the alleged abuse, including former Dutch model Thysia Huisman.
She accused Mr Brunel of spiking her drink and raping her in 1991 when she was just 18.
“I remember trying to move, but not really being able to,” she told The Guardian.
“Like almost being paralysed. I heard the sound of my blouse, a black blouse, ripping. I had a black skirt, too. I felt him – this is difficult – between my legs. Pushing.”
She told The Associated Press that Mr Brunel’s arrest was the “best Christmas present ever” and started crying “tears of joy”.
“It sounds like he is not getting out,” Ms Huisman said.
Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre alleged Mr Brunel had procured three poor 12-year-old French girls for him to abuse as a birthday present.
Ms Giuffre said he had flown the girls in from France promising that he would help promote their modelling careers before sending them to New York to be sexually abused by Epstein.
Mr Brunel had denied the allegations, which were among many sexual abuse claims made against the model scout over decades.
The Guardian reported that Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend who is accused of helping him recruit, groom, and sexually abuse minors, had introduced Mr Brunel to the deceased financier in the 1980s.
The prosecutor had already initiated investigations in the summer of 2019 and searched a modelling agency in Paris’ fashionable eighth district.
The French investigations are looking into possible criminal offences committed on French territory as well as involving French victims or perpetrators, the judiciary had said earlier.
Prosecutors accused him of luring underage girls, some as young as 14, to engage in sexual acts with him at both his New York and Florida homes.