PARIS — One of Jeffrey Epstein’s most prominent accusers testified against French modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel in a Paris court this week and is calling on other witnesses to come forward in the sexual assault case very publicized.
The closed-door testimony of Virginia Roberts Giuffre, 37, is the latest twist in the international investigation into Epstein and those accused of being his co-conspirators.
It is unclear what Giuffre said during the closed hearing, but his court appearance comes after years of accusations against Brunel. Giuffre said in a 2016 deposition, made public in 2019, that Epstein and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell ordered him to provide sexual services to Brunel. And speaking to NBC’s “Dateline” in a special that aired in 2019, Giuffre said Epstein told her he had slept with “over a thousand women that Brunel had brought.”
In an interview after her day-long testimony, Giuffre said she appeared in court to be a voice for victims and to ensure Brunel was brought to justice.
“I wanted Brunel to know that he no longer has power over me, that I am a grown woman now and have decided to hold him accountable for what he has done to me and so many others,” Giuffre said.
In 2019, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation into rape, aggravated sexual assault and criminal association linked to sexual offenses probably committed by Epstein and other possible accomplices on French victims or on French territory.
Brunel was arrested at Charles de Gaulle airport last December as he was about to board a flight to Senegal and was taken into custody for questioning as part of the investigation, according to a statement released. by the Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz.
He was officially charged with rape of at least one minor over 15 and sexual harassment. A statement from Brunel’s lawyers denied any wrongdoing. The Paris prosecutor’s office declined to specify the number of alleged rape victims over the age of 15.
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He was also “placed under the status of assisted witness of aggravated human trafficking to the detriment of minor victims for the purpose of sexual exploitation”, according to the press release.
Élodie Tuaillon-Hibon, a French lawyer who specializes in sexual assault cases, said assisted witness status meant prosecutors did not have enough evidence to charge Brunel with the offense of human trafficking, but that it did not prevent him from being charged in the case. future.
“I urge more witnesses — even if it’s outside the statute of limitations — to come forward,” Giuffre said. “The judge listens, the authorities listen, I listen.”
“We want to help put this monster where it belongs,” she said. “We can’t do this unless we all work together.”
Giuffre pointed out that French prosecutors are eager to speak to anyone who might have information about Brunel and recently set up a special email address to receive advice from the public.
“Whether you witness Jean-Luc Brunel somewhere – and it doesn’t even have to be him doing anything illegal, it can just place him somewhere, and in doing so, he can help piece together another victim’s story, corroborate,” she said.
In an emailed statement, Brunel’s lawyers said they could not comment in detail on the case, but strongly denied Brunel had a sexual relationship with Giuffre or participated in sex trafficking. .
“Confronted with her own contradictions and the evidence of the proceedings, Ms. Virginia Roberts admitted that she made mistakes regarding the places, dates and people who allegedly assaulted her,” the statement read.
Brunel denied any wrongdoing in a 2015 lawsuit against Epstein, in which he alleged “false stories” linking him to Epstein caused him and his modeling agency a “huge loss of business”.
In the lawsuit, Brunel alleged that several photographers would no longer work with his agency due to “negative publicity” surrounding Epstein and his illegal activities and publicity “falsely linking” Brunel and his agency to those activities, “namely sex trafficking”. “
Brunel and Epstein had known each other for years, according to the 2015 lawsuit.
Sigrid McCawley, Giuffre’s lawyer in Florida, said French authorities had worked hard to bring justice to Brunel’s alleged victims and the process was taking time.
“Virginia’s incredible courage to step forward and help the French investigation will pave the way for further progress,” she said.
In her 2016 deposition, Giuffre said she worked as a locker room attendant at Mar-a-Lago, the private club owned by former President Donald Trump, when she was 16 when Maxwell recruited her to train as a masseuse. She says Epstein and Maxwell then attacked her for years.
The account appeared in 2,000 pages of documents released in 2019 by a federal appeals court relating to a 2015 defamation lawsuit filed by Giuffre against Maxwell. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2017.
Epstein, 66, died by suicide in a federal prison cell in New York in August 2019 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy. He faces up to 45 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors in New York have alleged that between at least 2002 and 2005, Epstein paid girls as young as 14 for sex at his Manhattan home or at his Florida estate. He had pleaded not guilty.
He previously pleaded guilty in 2008 to recruiting a person under the age of 18 into prostitution and criminal solicitation of prostitution. He served 13 months and was registered as a sex offender in Florida under a non-prosecution agreement he signed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami.
Maxwell, his longtime confidant, was arrested in July and is still being held in New York. She pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to entice minors, conspiracy to transport minors, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and sex trafficking of a minor.
Prosecutors have accused her of playing a key role in Epstein’s abuse of underage girls, helping groom victims and encouraging them to accept his offers of financial assistance. The original indictment alleges that Maxwell sometimes joined in the abuse.
Sources familiar with the federal probe into Epstein and his associates said it remains an active investigation.
Maxwell’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.