Tearful Ghislaine Maxwell denied bail by US court which rules her 'definition of flight risk'

Josie Ensor
·6-min read
Ghislaine Maxwell appears via video link during her arraignment hearing in Manhattan Federal Court in New York -  JANE ROSENBERG/ REUTERS
Ghislaine Maxwell appears via video link during her arraignment hearing in Manhattan Federal Court in New York - JANE ROSENBERG/ REUTERS

Ghisaine Maxwell will spend the next year in prison after she was denied bail by a US judge who heard she was a “predator and a monster” from whom victims needed protecting.

Ms Maxwell, a longtime associate of disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein, wiped away tears on Tuesday as she pleaded not guilty at a New York court to charges of luring girls for him to sexually abuse.

Ms Maxwell, 58, appeared via video link before US District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan, who agreed with the prosecution that the British heiress was the “definition of a flight risk” due to her international connections, high-profile friends and vast hidden wealth.

The daughter of media magnate Robert Maxwell is facing six criminal charges, including four related to transporting minors for illegal sexual acts and two of perjury. She will remain at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn until her trial starts on July 12, 2021. 

In ruling, Ms Nathan said the risk of Ms Maxwell fleeing was “too great" to mitigate.

Prince Andrew smiling as he stands with his left arm around the waist of a young Virginia Roberts - Capital Pictures 
Prince Andrew smiling as he stands with his left arm around the waist of a young Virginia Roberts - Capital Pictures

She described the socialite’s "extraordinary capacity to evade detection”, access to substantial finances, multiple citizenships, strong connections to the UK and France and lack of ties to the US.

Alison Moe, assistant US attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), told the court Ms Maxwell had "the ability to live off the grid indefinitely," citing her access to millions of dollars in bank accounts and the scant information about her finances provided by her lawyers.

Ms Nathan said even a larger bond package than the $5 million the defendant had offered would not be sufficient, nor would even the most restrictive of house arrest conditions.

Ms Maxwell, who appeared virtually from prison due to coronavirus restrictions, was seen sporting a baggy brown prison uniform. She appeared tired behind her dark-rim glasses with her short hair scraped back into a bun - a far cry from her glamorous jet-setting image.

She addressed the judge softly and politely in a well-spoken British accent.

Two of the alleged victims identified in the indictment against Ms Maxwell appealed to the judge not to grant bail, saying they feared it would allow her to escape justice.

Epstein and Maxwell with President Trump and Melania, back in 2000 - Getty
Epstein and Maxwell with President Trump and Melania, back in 2000 - Getty

Annie Farmer, waiving her right to anonymity, said: "She is a sexual predator who groomed and abused me and other young women. She has lied under oath and tormented her survivors. She has demonstrated contempt for our legal system by perjury. 

"The danger she poses must be taken seriously," said Miss Farmer, who has accused the defendant of enabling her abuse in the md-1990s.

Another, who wished to remain anonymous for her own security, told Judge Nathan: "Without Ghislaine, Jeffrey couldn’t have done what he did.” 

Calling Ms Maxwell a “monster”, she said: "I have great fear she will flee. She has a sole motive of self-preservation."

She added that should Ms Maxwell be released before trial that she would "need protection".

It was an unusual spectacle with participants appearing by video on a screen in a large jury assembly room at a courthouse where the 60 or so spectators are tested for fevers and must answer questions related to Covid-19.

Before Tuesday's hearing, Ms Maxwell’s lawyers submitted their appeal to the judge, arguing that she is at risk of contracting Covid-19 if she remains in jail. 

However, Judge Nathan ruled that the 58-year-old was not at exceptional risk and was confident in the Metropolitan Detention Center’s prevention measures.

Ms Maxwell’s lawyers had argued that she had no intention of trying to flee, pointing to the fact that she has not left the US since Epstein was arrested last summer. 

Epstein was charged last July with sexually exploiting dozens of girls and women from 2002 to 2005 at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida. He was ruled to have hanged himself last August 10 at age 66 in a Manhattan jail.

Lawyers for her defence said she had not been “hiding out” at the $1.1m 156-acre property in Bradford, New Hampshire, she purchased in cash through a limited company when she was arrested by the FBI, but was simply escaping the "media’s glare". 

They argued that Epstein's death left the media "wrongly trying to substitute her for Epstein, even though she'd had no contact with Epstein for more than a decade, had never been charged with a crime or been found liable in any civil litigation, and has always denied any allegations of claimed misconduct."

Ms Maxwell had put up a $5million bond offer, to be secured by property in the UK and six close family and friends.

Her lawyers asked that Ms Maxwell be allowed out on house arrest at a luxury hotel in Manhattan, submit to electronic tagging and relinquish her three passports.

Mark Cohen, her attorney, cited precedents for bail, naming Bernie Madoff, a financier who executed the largest Ponzi scheme in history, and Adnan Khoshoaggi, the Saudi arms dealer.

However, prosecutors for the SDNY described Ms Maxwell as “the definition of a flight risk" reflecting her wealth, multiple citizenships - American, French and British - and prior success in evading capture, and said she should remain detained.

In documents submitted on Monday opposing Ms Maxwell's application for bail, she revealed that FBI officers discovered that she is "extremely skilled at living in hiding".

She had reportedly wrapped her mobile phone in tin foil in a “seemingly misguided effort to evade detection” and hired former British soldiers to guard her hideout in New Hampshire.

The prosecution claimed in court on Tuesday that when Ms Maxwell toured the mansion where she was ultimately arrested in December, she used an “alias”, telling a property estate agent her name was Jen Marshall and that she was a journalist seeking privacy.

“She is good at living under an assumed identity. There really can be no question that she can live in hiding,” said Ms Moe. "It shows she is willing to lie about who she is, which should be extremely concerning to the court.”

Attorney Spencer Kuvin, who is representing six of Epstein's alleged victims, said: "The weight of money, power and influence has finally been overcome by the weight of justice and truth. This is a victory for my clients, the victims of Epstein’s illicit sexual pyramid scheme, and as is the rest of the world, we will be eagerly watching as the scales of justice finally tip against Maxwell and other co-conspirators.”