Ghislaine Maxwell accused of playing ‘critical role’ in Jeffrey Epstein abuse

Ghislaine Maxwell has been accused of playing a “critical role” in Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of underage girls, as investigators said they would welcome a statement from the Duke of York in relation to the scandal.

Maxwell, who faces charges over her alleged role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of girls by the disgraced financier, was detained in New Hampshire on Thursday.

Acting US attorney for the southern district of New York Audrey Strauss said Maxwell, daughter of late media mogul Robert Maxwell, had helped Epstein “identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse”.

Announcing the charges against Maxwell, Ms Strauss said authorities would “welcome” a statement from the Duke of York in relation to the investigation.

One of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, claims that Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Andrew at the socialite’s London townhouse.

Ms Giuffre has claimed she was trafficked by Epstein and alleges the duke had sex with her on three separate occasions, including when she was 17, still a minor under US law.

Andrew categorically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Ms Giuffre, while his lawyers claim the duke has made three offers to give a witness statement to investigators.

Maxwell has previously denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of sexual misconduct by the disgraced financier, who took his own life in prison last year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

At a press conference on Thursday, Ms Strauss told reporters: “Maxwell was among Epstein’s closest associates and helped him exploit girls who were as young as 14 years old,” she told reporters.

“Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse.

“In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse herself.

“As alleged, Maxwell and Epstein had a method. Typically, they would befriend these young girls by asking them questions about their lives, pretending to be taking an interest in them.”

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