Powerful Friends, Fake Photos, and a Mystery Company: Who Is Epstein ‘Madam’ Ghislaine Maxwell? 1

Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s closest confidante, was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire on Thursday.

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

She’s a 58-year-old British heiress, born in France as the youngest of nine children to Elizabeth and Robert Maxwell, and raised in a 53-room mansion in Oxford. Robert Maxwell, a publishing tycoon who once served in the British Parliament, was a charismatic but shady businessman who died in mysterious circumstances in 1991 when he disappeared from the deck of his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, anchored off the Canary Islands. Family observers previously told The Daily Beast that it was not strange that Ghislaine and some of her sisters were drawn to larger-than-life, strange men. “They attach themselves to bizarre psychopaths like their father,” one researcher said.

Ghislaine Maxwell has a degree from Oxford University, speaks four languages, and is a trained private helicopter pilot. She was involved in social clubs at Oxford and perhaps not surprisingly given her upbringing, has moved in high society circles her whole life. She has homes in several countries but largely resided in her London townhouse during her time with Epstein.

What was her relationship to Jeffrey Epstein?

Maxwell was close to her father and, after his death, she moved to the United States. She lived in a friend’s apartment overlooking Central Park, worked at a luxury real estate company, and quickly ingratiated herself with the high-society set in New York. She met Epstein at a party in the ’90s when he was a wealthy but exceptionally private financier who didn’t yet move in high-society circles. While they initially dated, their relationship has been murkier over the years and she has been described as his live-in companion, his best friend, his assistant—and his “madam.” She is credited with introducing Epstein to the New York social scene and notable figures like Prince Andrew, a member of the British royal family.

Maxwell continued to socialize after Epstein served a 13-month sentence in Florida in 2008 for soliciting a minor for prostitution but the pair were not seen together as often. 

What has she been charged with today?

Maxwell has been charged with six offenses relating to the transportation and enticement of minors to engage in illegal sex acts. It relates to three underage victims and covers the period 1994 to 1997. She is accused of recruiting and grooming girls who traveled to Epstein’s homes in New York and New Mexico, and Maxwell’s London home for erotic massages that turned into sexual abuse. She allegedly procured the girls and built a rapport by taking them shopping and asking about their lives. She then slowly normalized sexual abuse by undressing in front of them, discussing sexual topics, and being present when they gave Epstein massages, an 18-page indictment says. She is also accused of participating in some of the massages and sexual abuse. She and Epstein often gave victims expensive travel and education opportunities, leaving them feeling indebted to the pair.   

Maxwell is also charged with two counts of perjury for allegedly lying during a 2016 deposition in which she said she’d never participated in any massages and she’d wasn’t aware of Epstein’s persistent sexual abuse. Epstein was charged with several sexual abuse and sex trafficking offenses last year but committed suicide in his jail cell after being denied bond.

Is this the first time we have heard these allegations? 

No. Maxwell is facing three civil lawsuits by women who accused her of helping Epstein procure girls who were sexually assaulted and trafficked out to other pedophiles on multiple continents. She is accused of participating in some of the sexual abuse in the form of threesomes with Epstein and underage girls. 

Most notably, Virginia Giuffre accused Epstein and Maxwell of keeping her as a sex slave when she was 16 and loaning her out to high-powered men—including one of Maxwell’s high-society connections, Prince Andrew, who went on to become a close Epstein pal—for erotic massages and sex. Maxwell denied the allegations and counter-sued Giuffre for defamation with the case settled in 2017 on confidential terms. Despite a photo existing of him and Giuffre in Maxwell’s London townhouse, Prince Andrew has denied knowing Giuffre and maintained that he knew nothing about his close friend Epstein’s sexual abuse.

Another victim, Jennifer Araoz, is suing both Maxwell and Epstein’s estate over repeated sexual abuse in the early 2000s that culminated in a brutal rape in Epstein’s New York mansion. She alleges that Maxwell and Epstein’s employees recruited her from outside her high school and introduced her to the billionaire pedophile under the guise of helping her fledgling musical career. Maxwell helped to identify and hire underage girls, schedule appointments for erotic massages, and later intimidate witnesses into not disclosing abuse, the lawsuit says. 

Two other victims have suits against Maxwell and Epstein’s estates: an unidentified 13-year-old known only as Jane Doe; and Annie Farmer, who was flown out to Epstein’s New Mexico ranch in the ’90s and accuses the pair of rape, battery, and false imprisonment. Sarah Ransome, who accused Maxwell of hiring her to give massages to Epstein and threatening to harm her if she didn’t comply, settled a suit against Maxwell and Epstein’s estates.

Why has it taken so long to arrest her?

Maxwell has been in hiding since Epstein’s arrest last year, refusing to accept service of the civil lawsuits and only communicating with courts through her lawyers, who said they didn’t know where she was living. She filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in the U.S. Virgin Islands in March this year seeking money from Epstein’s estate to cover legal and security costs, claiming Epstein had promised to always look after her financially.

Rumors have swirled in the past year, placing Maxwell in Brazil, Paris, and rural France. Last August, it appeared she was living in Manchester by the Sea, Massachusetts, in the home of a possible boyfriend, Scott Borgerson, CEO of CargoMetrics, a hedge fund firm involved in maritime data analytics. Locals said they’d seen her walking her dog on the beach and going by the name “G.” Later that month, she was supposedly photographed eating at an In-N-Out in Los Angeles but the photos, which ran in the New York Post, were later proven to have been staged by her friend, the lawyer attorney Leah Saffian.

Southern District of New York prosecutors said Thursday they had been keeping tabs on her all along and she had “slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire” where she was still living in luxury. In a court filing, prosecutors said Maxwell had moved at least twice recently, had switched her primary phone number (which she registered under the name “G Max”) and email address, and had ordered packages under different shipping names. The 156-acre property in Bradford, New Hampshire, was paid for with cash in December using a “carefully anonymized LLC,” the filing says.

What kind of high-society connections did she have? 

Maxwell’s longstanding friendship with Prince Andrew has perhaps caused the most ructions. She introduced him to Guiffre during a London trip, leading the British royal to be dogged for years by accusations of underage sex. In a car-crash interview with the BBC, Prince Andrew said he couldn’t recall ever meeting Guiffre and said he could disprove her allegations of a disturbingly sweaty sexual encounter because he was unable to sweat. The royal was a frequent guest at Epstein’s private island, where staff claim they saw him engaging in sex acts with underage girls. 

Maxwell had close connections to the Clinton family, too. She attended Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2010, appeared at a dinner at the Clinton White House with Epstein in 1993, and participated in the Clinton Global Initiative as recently as 2013, through her oceanic non-profit the TerraMar Project, according to the Initiative’s website. Bill Clinton’s name appeared on flight logs for Epstein’s private plane—and witnesses placed him on the private island—but he has denied any involvement in illegal acts. Similarly, Chelsea Clinton maintains she had no idea about Maxwell’s alleged sexual grooming.

What does she do for a living?

She has had numerous streams of income over the years, from running social clubs at Oxford to working for a Madison Avenue real estate company to living off a trust fund set up by her father. Maxwell launched a bizarre, and now defunct, oceanic environmental non-profit called TerraMar in 2012 that advocated for the protection of oceans. The FBI had reportedly been investigating whether TerraMar was a shell company. The New York Post reported that Maxwell pumped $283,429 worth of loans through the company between 2012 and 2017, and gave out just $874 in grants. 

What was her family like?

The Maxwell family has been described as having more skeletons in the closet than a haunted house. After Robert’s mysterious death in 1991, rumors abounded that he was an Israeli spy. It also emerged that his companies were in massive debt and he had plundered hundreds of millions of dollars from the pension fund of one of his newspapers. Two of his sons were implicated in the corporate theft but later cleared. Two of her sisters, twins Isabel and Christine, were internet pioneers who started the early search engine Magellan. Her brother-in-law Al Seckel, who gave TED talks on optical illusions, reportedly fell to his death in 2015 after he was exposed as a swindler in Los Angeles. Robert Maxwell’s parents and siblings were killed during the Holocaust, inspiring his French Protestant wife, Elisabeth, to become a renowned Holocaust scholar.