French agent Jean-Luc Brunel and Ghislaine Maxwell on the island of Jeffrey Epstein, in the mid-2000s. - Photos provided to "20 Minutes"
- Jeffrey Epstein's ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested on Thursday in the United States and charged with sex trafficking of minors.
- American justice continues to investigate the Epstein network, in which the French agent Jean-Luc Brunel is accused by several victims of having acted as a tout.
- 20 Minutes investigated for several months the links between Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell and Jean-Luc Brunel.
From our correspondent in the United States,
The photo gave a first hint. Jean-Luc Brunel sits on an armchair with Ghislaine Maxwell, his arm wrapped around her, her complexion tanned by the virgin island sun and a smile on her face. On another shot, taken a few seconds later, that 20 Minutes obtained, the French agent is hilarious, as if he had just told the best joke in the world to an old friend. We do not see Jeffrey Epstein in these photos, but he is not far: Brunel and Maxwell are on vacation at his home, in the mid-2000s, on his island of Little Saint-James, a Caribbean paradise where dozens of young girls have gone through hell.
While Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested in the United States on Thursday and charged with trafficking in minors, the Manhattan prosecutor warned that the investigation was continuing to dismantle the rest of the network of Epstein, who committed suicide in his cell in August 2019. And for the lawyer Spencer Kuvin, who since 2007 represents several victims of the American financier, “there is no doubt: just like Ghislaine Maxwell, Jean-Luc Brunel procured underage girls to Jeffrey Epstein, and must answer for it in justice ”. It remains to be seen where the French septuagenarian is, when he has not been seen in public since the white evening of the Paris Country Club, July 5, 2019 - the day before the arrest of Epstein on the tarmac of Teterboro , in New Jersey - and that the investigation opened in France seems to be stalling.
From Paris to New York
Since the beginning of the affair, a question has long remained unanswered: when and how did Jean-Luc Brunel meet Jeffrey Epstein, and why did the American financier invest a million dollars in the French agency in the early 2000s in Miami? Like most important people in the life of Jeffrey Epstein, from Bill Clinton to Prince Andrew, the intermediary between Epstein and Brunel would actually be Ghislaine Maxwell.
It is the American lawyer Bradley Edwards who brings the answer in his memoirs Relentless Pursuit , on his long legal battle with Jeffrey Epstein, published in the spring in full explosion of the coronavirus. Voluntarily testifying before a team of several lawyers in 2016, in New York, in the context of civil proceedings, Jean-Luc Brunel affirms that he has known Ghislaine Maxwell since the 1980s, and that it was she who introduced him Jeffrey Epstein in the early 1990s in New York.
Laura Goldman, a friend of the Maxwell family, confirms the first point at 20 Minutes : "Ghislaine was born in France (in Maisons-Laffitte) and got to know Jean-Luc in the mid-1980s. She often came to parades in Paris or at store openings. A photographer describes it as "the Paris Hilton of its time, more distinguished". Understand a socialite that often accompanies his father, the British media magnate Robert Maxwell, and his French mother, Elizabeth (née Meynard), and rubs shoulders with the powerful. We see her in particular at 25, with her parents, at the Cannes festival, in May 1987, a month after the privatization of TF1 led by Robert Maxwell and Francis Bouygues.
The one who studied at Oxford is the youngest of the couple's nine children, and also the favorite of her father, who baptized her yacht the Lady Ghislaine . It was from the deck of this ship that Robert Maxwell fell in the Atlantic, off the Canaries, on November 5, 1991 - the autopsy concluded with a heart attack and an accidental drowning, but Ghislaine Maxwell defended the thesis of the murder. Tearful, she abandons her brothers in the face of the fallout from the scandal of employee pension funds hijacked by Robert Maxwell. Direction New York, in Concorde.
New life in the United States
Accustomed to luxury hotels, Ghislaine Maxwell rebuilds her life with a trust fund of 100,000 dollars a year - the rest of the family fortune is frozen by British justice - and rents an apartment in the Upper East Side at 2,000 dollars a month, says then the New York Post . Quickly, she appears on the arm of a mysterious New York financier: Jeffrey Epstein. The origin of his fortune intrigues, when his only known client is the billionaire Les Wexner, who has just bought Victoria Secret. Ghislaine Maxwell is then considered the companion of Epstein - she will even present herself later to her first victims, Annie and Marie Farmer, like his wife. He opens her bank account for her and she shares it with her address book. The couple became accustomed to the catwalks and traveled to Paris for the Valentino fashion show in 1992. Epstein was then 39 years old, Maxwell 31.
Jeffrey Epstein: Would his sidekick Ghislaine Maxwell play hide and seek? https://t.co/tPvvLlT8AM pic.twitter.com/9hsAYXjTOI- Purepeople.com (@purepeople) August 21, 2019
It was between 1994 and 1997 that Ghislaine Maxwell, according to the indictment, "won the trust" of three "vulnerable" young girls, including two aged 14 and 15, and "lured them into the trap that 'she and Jeffrey Epstein had strained. After the cinema and shopping came the massages which turned into "sexual acts".
If Ghislaine Maxwell came to New York to start a new life, Jean-Luc Brunel, he hopes to relaunch his career there. Become radioactive in Paris after the rape accusations of the investigation of 60 Minutes , at the end of 1988, the boss of Karin Models leaves to settle across the Atlantic. With the financial assistance of his brother Arnaud Brunel, he became a silent partner in the Next Models agency launched by Faith Kates. “He was an investor and a minority partner. He was never involved in operations management, "Kates swears to 20 Minutes . Several former employees assure, however, on condition of anonymity, that “in practice, Jean-Luc Brunel was the boss of Next Miami. »The French also debauched several models and employees of Next when he launched Karin Models USA, in Miami and New York in 1995-1996.
In New York, Brunel was quickly overtaken by his reputation. "He was obsessed with girls, I never left him alone with the models," recalls photographer Clayton Nelson of Click agency. At that time, the Frenchman rented an apartment in the Trump Tower in Manhattan. According to Nelson, he notably rubs shoulders with Italian agent Paolo Zampolli but also ... Donald Trump, who wants to start his own agency - it is Zampolli who will present Melania Knauss (from Melania Trump) to the future American president. Clayton Nelson remembers in particular an incident at the Coffee House restaurant, where he claims to have seen Brunel, Zampolli and Trump insistently follow a mannequin. "I asked Brunel, '' Do we have a fucking problem here? '', Says the photographer. "Zere is no problem", replies the Frenchman, who peaks at 1.65m.
Jeffrey Epstein, orbiting the fashion world and looking to invest. That's good, Jean-Luc Brunel, who lives beyond his means, always needs cash. It was during this period, between the beginning and the mid-1990s, that Ghislaine would have presented Epstein to her friend "Jean-Luc". When Epstein bought his huge Parisian apartment on avenue Foch in 2001, he consulted Brunel, according to a former collaborator.
Regular passengers on the Epstein private jet
Epstein then signs a million dollar letter of credit to Brunel, but the joint agency project with Elite capote, and the Frenchman then changes the name of Karin USA to MC2 in 2005. Palm Beach, New York, Le Bourget , Saint-Thomas, Sao Polo, Prague… Between 1998 and 2008, Jean-Luc Brunel traveled more than 30 times aboard the private jet of Epstein, nicknamed by the tabloids the “Lolita Express”. Often his initials, "JLB", appear next to "JE" and "GM" on the flight logs.
In his 2010 statement, the former accountant of MC2, Maritza Vasquez, said that Jean-Luc Brunel obtained visas to bring young models to the United States and obtain them from Jeffrey Epstein, like the Slovak Nadia Marcinko, who arrived at 14 years old and housed in an apartment belonging to Epstein's brother. One of Epstein's main accusers, Virginia Giuffre, testified that she was forced to have sex with the French scout. According to her, Ghislaine Maxwell was responsible for recruiting American high school girls, and Brunel was "the main supplier of foreign girls", especially from Eastern Europe and South America.
During the Springboard Models New Generation competition, organized by Jean-Luc Brunel in Ecuador, on August 25, 2003, the "Lolita Express", with Epstein and Maxwell on board, landed at Quayaquil airport (code "SEGU") , August 24. The aircraft took off on the 25th.
In the luxurious home of Jeffrey Epstein in Palm Beach, where Ghislaine Maxwell resides, Jean-Luc Brunel feels at home. The former butler of the domain, Janusz Banasiak, did not wish to answer our questions. But in his civil testimony in 2010, he indicated that Epstein and Brunel were "friends", and that the Frenchman even cooked himself meals in the kitchen of the American financier. He regularly phones the residence and leaves messages for "Jeffrey", noted by assistants on notebooks found by the police. Like this one, in 2005: “He [Brunel] has a teacher to teach you to speak Russian. She is 2x8 years old, not blonde. The lessons are free and you can have the first one today if you call. ” A message barely coded to designate, according to the investigators, a young Russian girl of 16 years made available for massages of a sexual nature.
Their friendship continues. When Jeffrey Epstein was serving a thirteen-month prison sentence in prison in 2008 for soliciting a prostitute minor, Jean-Luc Brunel visited him in detention on numerous occasions. Officially, the pair then quarrels, and Brunel even tries to sue Epstein, claiming that he lost millions of dollars in contracts because of "lies" about his ties to Epstein. But his complaint, which his lawyer Joe Titone fails to hand deliver to Jeffrey Epstein, goes nowhere. Bradley Edwards suspects the Frenchman of playing double game.
Collaborating with justice, the only hope for Ghislaine Maxwell
When he agreed to answer the lawyers in 2016, Jean-Luc Brunel assured that he wanted to empty his bag. He explains, says Bradley Edwards in his memoirs, that he himself is a victim of Epstein, that he allowed him to revive himself as an agent, and that he owed him a debt. His lawyer, Joe Titone, says that Brunel "has a lot of photos, with Epstein and his friends" and that some would include "young girls". Brunel then agreed to go tell the attorneys in the Manhattan office the following day. But as when he dodged a statement by claiming to be abroad six years earlier, the French agent vanishes, claiming to have been forced to take the plane in an emergency.
Has American justice sought to hear the French since 2016? "We do not comment on the investigations under way," replies the Manhattan prosecutor's office. 20 Minutes also asked Jean-Luc Brunel a series of questions last April, but he did not wish to speak. "We reserve our responses to the judicial authorities," said his French lawyer, Corinne Dreyfus-Schmidt. Joined this Friday by 20 Minutes , it remains on the same line: "We are still waiting for justice to signal us". No comments, therefore, pending a possible invitation from his client. In 2015, Brunel denied as a whole "having participated [...] in the acts of which Epstein is accused" and "having committed any reprehensible act" as an agent.
Ghislaine Maxwell, for her part, risks a maximum of thirty-five years' imprisonment if convicted. She is to be transferred soon to Manhattan, where a magistrate will be responsible for deciding on a possible release on bail which the prosecutor's office opposes, because of a "risk of flight" deemed high, with his three passports and his 16 bank accounts. Back to the wall, it now has, according to lawyer Spencer Kuvin, "no other choice than to try to negotiate a plea deal by bringing down the rest of the network. »Even turns against his friend of thirty years.
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