Ghislaine Maxwell 'manipulated' and 'served up' girls for sexual abuse, court hears

29 November 2021, 22:04 | Updated: 30 November 2021, 01:13

Ghislaine Maxwell is standing trial in New York.
Ghislaine Maxwell is standing trial in New York. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Ghislaine Maxwell "manipulated" and "served up" young girls for sexual abuse, a prosecutor has alleged at the opening of a US trial.

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The "dangerous" British socialite preyed upon vulnerable young girls and lured them to massage rooms to be molested by predator Jeffrey Epstein, her New York trial has heard.

She is alleged to have gained the trust of teenage girls as young as 14 and normalised sex for her partner Epstein to abuse them between 1994 and 2004.

The court heard that while the "horrific abuse" was going on, the 59-year-old defendant lived a "life of luxury", with the prosecution describing the alleged trafficking as a "means to support her lifestyle".

She allegedly imposed a "culture of silence ... by design" at Epstein's properties, where staff were told to "see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing".

Assistant United States Attorney Lara Pomerantz told jurors that Maxwell and Epstein's youngest alleged victim, who was 14 when she was "recruited", did not know that "this man and woman were predators".

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Opening the case against the defendant, Ms Pomerantz said: "This meeting was the beginning of that man and woman targeting (the victim) for sexual abuse that would last for years."

Pointing to the defendant, Ms Pomerantz said: "Who was this woman? It was the defendant, Ghislaine Maxwell.

"The defendant directed the girls into a room where she knew (Epstein) would molest them.

"There were times when she was in the room when it happened - making it all feel normal and causal.

"She preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused.

"The defendant was trafficking kids for sex. That is what this trial is all about."

The full indictment against Maxwell lists six charges, including conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

She is also accused of transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, sex trafficking conspiracy, and sex trafficking of a minor.

The defendant is further alleged to have lied under oath by hiding her participation in Epstein's offences during a separate civil case.

However, defending Maxwell, Bobbi Sternheim told the jury: "The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell are for things Jeffrey Epstein did.

"But she is not Jeffrey Epstein.

"She is not like Jeffrey Epstein and she is not like the powerful white men and media giants who abuse women.

"Epstein is not on trial but his name and conduct will be mentioned throughout this trial."

Ms Pomerantz argued: "The defendant played an essential role in this scheme.

"She knew exactly what she was doing. She was dangerous."

Maxwell - who has been held in a US jail since her arrest in July 2020 - denies all charges.

The trial continues.