British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has appeared in court on charges of luring underage girls so they could be sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein.
Prosecutors say the 58-year-old, a former girlfriend and long-time associate of the convicted paedophile, faces up to 35 years in jail if she is found guilty.
She was described as a flight risk during the hearing, and was ordered to remain in custody while she is transferred to New York for a detention hearing.
Maxwell, who has kept a low profile since Epstein’s death in August last year, was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire on Thursday.
She is accused of helping the disgraced financier “identify, befriend and groom” multiple girls, including one as young as 14.
Meanwhile, a source close to the Duke of York said he is “bewildered” by claims made by US authorities that he has not offered to cooperate with the Epstein case.
Maxwell, the daughter of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, has previously denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of sexual misconduct by Epstein.
The disgraced financier took his own life in prison last year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.
Announcing the charges against Maxwell, Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, claimed that the socialite had helped Epstein to exploit underage girls – and “in some cases” would participate in the abuse herself.
“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.”
Ms Strauss said Maxwell had “repeatedly lied” about her involvement because the truth was “almost unspeakable”.
Maxwell is charged with four criminal counts related to procuring and transporting minors for illegal sex acts and two of perjury, according to the indictment.
Appearing via video link during a 17-minute court hearing in Concord, New Hampshire, she did not enter a plea and answered Judge Andrea Johnston’s questions with either “I do” or “I am aware”.
Lawyer Brad Edwards, who represents dozens of Epstein’s alleged victims, says they are relieved following Maxwell’s arrest.
He said: “It’s a long time coming and I’ve spoken with my clients today, some of whom had a lot of interactions with Ghislaine, and others who have none.
“But either way, all of them were extremely relieved. And to understand the importance of this particular arrest.”
And he says he does not think Maxwell’s arrest will be the last.
“I think that you’re going to see other people that along the way helped to facilitate enable these types of crimes to be committed. And I would not be surprised if some of these other people get indicted,” Mr Edwards added.
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