PARIS/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Jean-Luc Brunel, a longtime French modeling agent who knew the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, has been taken into police custody by French authorities, the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Thursday.
Brunel, 74, was arrested Wednesday in connection with an investigation opened last year into allegations of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment, the office said.
He was arrested at Charles de Gaulle airport before boarding a plane for Côte d’Ivoire, according to several French media.
Brunel has previously denied wrongdoing related to his association with Epstein.
A lawyer for Brunel and his law firm did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside office hours.
Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail aged 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, the Paris Attorney General opened a preliminary investigation into whether Epstein had committed sex crimes on French territory or against French girls.
Investigators raided Karin’s premises in Paris the following month, and French media quoted Brunel’s lawyer in October 2019 as saying his client would be willing to cooperate with police.
Brunel was taken into custody 5 and a half months after the arrest by US authorities of Ghislaine Maxwell, a former associate of Epstein.
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 offered $28.5 million bail, which US prosecutors are expected to oppose.
In a court filing, Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein and Maxwell’s accusers, claimed that Brunel would offer modeling work to young girls and take girls as young as 12 to the United States so that he can ‘close them to his friends, especially Epstein’. ”
Giuffre also claimed Brunel was among several prominent men Maxwell ordered her to have sex with, according to court documents.
Brunel sued Epstein in 2015, claiming the financier’s previous legal troubles had unfairly embroiled him and damaged the reputation of his modeling agency here.
Reporting by Matthieu Protard and Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris, and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Grant McCool and Christopher Cushing