France launches rape inquiry in Epstein case

Jeffrey EspsteinImage copyright

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Epstein was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges when he was found dead in his cell

French prosecutors have opened an inquiry into rape allegations against the late US financier Jeffrey Epstein.

The 66-year-old died in a New York prison cell on 10 August as he awaited trial over allegations that he had run a network using underage girls for sex.

He had an apartment in Paris, and French gender equality minister Marlène Schiappa had called for an inquiry into any abuses committed on French soil.

On Friday Paris prosecutors launched a probe for “rape” and “sexual assault”.

Epstein was a fund manager with a vast fortune and properties around the world.

He was also well-connected and had socialised with – among others – Britain’s Prince Andrew and US Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton.

He also dated glamorous women like Miss Sweden winner Eva Andersson Dubin and Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of publisher Robert Maxwell.

What was he accused of in the US?

Epstein was charged in New York in July with sex trafficking and conspiracy and was due to face trial next year.

He was already a convicted sex offender, having pleaded guilty to prostitution charges involving a minor in Florida in 2008.

He was sentenced to a 13-month work release programme, in a deal which many commentators said was extremely lenient.

The second criminal case against him was launched after an FBI search of his Manhattan home resulted in the seizure of what appeared to be photos of naked girls.

According to the charges, the girls, some as young as 14, were given hundreds of dollars for sexual acts.

What are the links with France?

Epstein spent plenty of time in Paris and owned a luxury apartment near the Arc de Triomphe.

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Epstein lived in an apartment on Paris’s wealthy Avenue Foch

Investigations “will focus on potential crimes committed against French victims… and on suspects who are French citizens”, Paris Prosecutor Remy Heitz said in a statement.

A French advocacy group for child sex abuse victims, Innocence En Danger (Innocence at Risk), said this week it had received 10 witness statements involving Epstein regarding alleged sex crimes committed against minors on French soil.

Epstein was also friends with French modelling tycoon Jean-Luc Brunel, who was accused in US court documents of procuring young girls for Epstein, along with allegations of rape.

Mr Brunel has denied the accusations.

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Media captionCo-conspirators of Epstein ‘should not rest easy’

How did Epstein die?

Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan cell on 10 August, in what medical examiners say was a suicide by hanging.

Questions have been raised as to how he was able to take his own life, especially given the fact he had reportedly attempted to kill himself a few days earlier.

Attorney General William Barr said officials had uncovered “serious irregularities” at the jail.

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