French prosecutors said Saturday they had charged and imprisoned a former close associate of disgraced American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, the prominent French modelling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, over alleged sex crimes.
Brunel was charged with rape of minors over the age of 15 and sexual harassment, said a statement from the prosecutors’ office. He was initially detained on Wednesday as he was about to board a flight to Senegal.
Brunel has previously denied wrongdoing related to his association with Epstein.
A lawyer for Brunel and her law firm did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside business hours.
Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail at age 66 in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
Brunel co-founded the Karin Models agency in the 1990s, and founded MC2 Model Management in the United States with Epstein.
In August 2019, Paris' chief prosecutor opened a preliminary inquiry into whether Epstein committed sex crimes on French territory or against French girls.
Investigators searched Karin's premises in Paris the next month, and French media quoted Brunel's lawyer in October 2019 as saying her client would be ready to cooperate with police.
Brunel was taken into custody 5-1/2 months after U.S. authorities arrested Ghislaine Maxwell, a former Epstein associate.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to helping Epstein recruit and groom underage girls for sex in the mid-1990s.
She has been held in a Brooklyn jail since July, and this week proposed a $28.5 million bail package, which U.S. prosecutors are expected to oppose.
In a court filing, Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's and Maxwell's accusers, claimed Brunel would offer modeling work to young girls, and take girls as young as 12 to the United States so he could "farm them out to his friends, especially Epstein."
Giuffre also claimed that Brunel was among several prominent men Maxwell directed her to have sex with, court papers show.
Brunel had sued Epstein in 2015, claiming that the financier's earlier legal troubles had unfairly embroiled him and damaged his modeling agency’s reputation.
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