*TRIGGER AND CONTENT WARNING: sexual abuse, paedophilia, child sex trafficking, abuse, suicide

Credit: Rolling Stone

On the 28th of June 2022, former socialite Ghislaine Noelle Marion Maxwell, aged 60, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of child sex trafficking and others. Interest in Maxwell as a key element in Jeffrey Epstein’s access to minors began after Epstein’s suicide in 2019 while in jail.

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

Maxwell was born on December 25th, 1961, to publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell and his wife Betty. On the 28th of December 1961 her family suffered the tragic death of her 15-year-old brother, Michael. This resulted in Maxwell’s childhood being coloured by neglect but eventually, to make up for lost time, Robert and Betty showered Ghislaine with lavish affection and riches.

The Maxwell family | Credit: New York Post

Maxwell’s upbringing is said to have been littered with her father’s emotional and physical abuse, even though she was his favourite child.

Maxwell studied modern history and languages at Marlborough College and Oxford University. Writer Anna Pasternak, who was at Oxford at the same time as Maxwell, writes,

“It was very clear to me even as an undergraduate that she was interested in power and money. She was one of those people at parties who always looked over your shoulder to see if there was somebody more powerful or more interesting while she was air-kissing you.”

In January 1991, Robert sent Ghislaine as his representative to the headquarters of New York Daily News. Robert had recently bought the struggling news company. This was how Maxwell entered the socialite scene of New York.

Robert Maxwell’s Death

Robert & Ghislaine Maxwell | Credit: New York Post

In November 1991, Robert Maxwell disappeared “and his body was later found floating in the sea.” After Robert’s death it was revealed that he, “had raided the Mirror Group’s pension fund of $583million as part of a scheme to artificially inflate the company’s share price at the expense of 32,000 of his employees.”

Although most people saw Robert as guilty of his crimes, Ghislaine has continued to defend her father. She insists that he was murdered and in defence of Robert, told Vanity Fair in 1992,

“He wasn’t a crook. A thief to me is somebody who steals money. Do I think that my father did that? No. I don’t know what he did. Obviously, something happened. Did he put it in his own pocket? Did he run off with the money? No. That’s my definition of a crook.”

Maxwell’s Relationship with Jeffrey Epstein

Credit: ABC

The recent trial shed light on the unclear nature of Maxwell’s and Epstein’s relationship. Several witnesses were called on the stand to describe and give insight about what truly transpired between the two convicted felons.

Lawrence Paul Visoki Junior who was Epstein’s pilot from 1991 until his death in 2019 described the relationship as “being more personal than business”. Visoki clarified that although he never saw Maxwell and Epstein engage in romantic activities such as kissing and holding hands, the pair did appear to be “couple-ish”.

Another employee, David Rodgers, said “Early on, they were romantically involved.” Visoki’s and Rodgers’ testimonies are similar. Both men described Maxwell as “integral in addressing Epstein’s quotidian needs” and that she managed his properties, hired his staff, handled expenses, and sometimes scheduled flights.

Interestingly, Visoki and Rodgers “described Maxwell as “No. 2” in the hierarchy of Epstein’s employees.”

Maxwell’s Influence on Epstein’s Personal Affairs

Credit: The Economic Times

Furthermore, Juan Alessi, who worked for Epstein as house manager between 1990 to 2002, testified that “Ms Maxwell was the girlfriend of Mr Epstein; I understand she was the lady of the house.” Alessi further explained,

“From the day she came to the house, she right away took over, and she mentioned to me she was going to be the lady of the house. Also, she was in charge of other homes, other properties.”

Alessi also recounted that that Maxwell had given the staff a handbook, outlining rules and regulations. While code of conduct manuals are normal practice between employer and employee, the mandates in the handbook were troubling. Some mandates were brought to light, such as:

  • “try and anticipate the needs of Mr Epstein, Ms Maxwell, and their guests”
  • “remember that you see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, except to answer a question. Respect [guest’s] privacy”

Many more witnesses were called to the stand. Epstein’s and Maxwell’s relationship is believed to have been romantic at some stage. After Epstein was convicted on charges of sexually abusing minors, Maxwell is believed to have said,

“My experience of Jeffrey, is of a thoughtful, kind generous loving man, with a keen sense of humour and a ready smile – a man of principles and values and a man of his word.”

They remained close until Epstein’s apparent suicide in 2019.

Why is Ghislaine Maxwell a Convicted Felon?

Credit: ABC

In July 2019, Epstein was arrested in New York as a convicted sex offender. But it soon became clear that Epstein would spend at least a year in prison with no possibility of bail, leading to his suicide in August 2019. This led to much outrage as Epstein was never brought to justice. Shortly after, Ghislaine Maxwell’s involvement in Epstein’s sex trafficking ring became the focus.

On December 29th, 2021, Maxwell was found guilty. She was charged with:

  1. “conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts”,

  2. “conspiracy to transport minor to participate in illegal sex acts”,

  3. “transporting a minor to participate in illegal sex acts”,

  4. “sex trafficking conspiracy”, and

  5. “sex trafficking of a minor.”

The recent two-week trial examined Maxwell’s involvement in Epstein’s abuse of minor girls from 1994 to 2004. Maxwell “enticed and groomed minor girls to be abused in multiple ways.” She apparently befriended girls as young as 14 years of age and acclimated them to Epstein’s behaviours and presence. Moreover, Epstein sometimes paid for his victims’ travel, education and other opportunities resulting in the young girls feeling indebted to both Maxwell and Epstein.

The Court’s Press Release

The Southern District of New York issued a press release stating,

“Maxwell also normalised and facilitated sexual abuse for a victim by discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when the victim was undressed, and encouraging the victim to massage Epstein. […] In some instances, Maxwell participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims. […] from approximately 2001 until at least approximately 2004…to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Maxwell and Epstein also paid certain victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein.”

Maxwell is sentenced to 20 years in prison and has a $750,000 fine to pay.

Maxwell Insists She is Innocent

Credit: BBC

However, even after the evidence brought against her, Maxwell has maintained she is innocent. After listening to the testimonies of victims in court, Maxwell shared the following statement,

“I’m sorry for the pain that you have experienced. The terrible impact on the lives of so many women is difficult to hear. I empathise deeply with all of the victims in this case.”

Her statement further reflected the argument made by her lawyers: that she had become a scapegoat for Epstein’s crimes.

“Jeffrey Epstein should have been here before all of you. My association with Epstein will permanently stain me.”

The closest Maxwell came to an apology was when she said, “I also acknowledge that I have been convicted of helping Jeffrey Epstein commit these crimes.”

Ultimately, Maxwell chose to end her statement without taking responsibility, instead focusing on the future,

“It is my sincerest wish to all those in this courtroom and to all those outside this courtroom that this day brings a terrible chapter to the end, to an end. And to those of you spoke here today and those of you who did not, may this day help you travel from darkness into the light.”

Closing Statements

After Maxwell’s sentencing, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams states,

Today’s sentence holds Ghislaine Maxwell accountable for perpetrating heinous crimes against children. This sentence sends a strong message that no one is above the law and it is never too late for justice. We again express our gratitude to Epstein and Maxwell’s victims for their courage in coming forward, in testifying at trial, and in sharing their stories as part of today’s sentencing.

If you or anyone you know has experienced or is experiencing any form of sexual assault or harassment, you can reach out to a range of Australian hotlines and services here.

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