France opens rape, child assault inquiry against Epstein

Jean-François Monier  AFP

Jean-François Monier AFP

The chief prosecutor in Paris has opened a preliminary inquiry to determine whether late USA financier Jeffrey Epstein committed any sex crimes on French territory or against any underage French victims, prosecutor Remy Heitz's office said on Friday.

Epstein, a magnate who rubbed shoulders with the elite and politically powerful and owned a Caribbean island, killed himself August 10 in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in NY while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges.

It sparked outrage and disbelief over how such a high-profile prisoner, known for socialising with powerful people including Prince Andrew and USA presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, could have gone unwatched.

He also dated glamorous women like Miss Sweden victor Eva Andersson Dubin and Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of publisher Robert Maxwell.

It will also investigate claims Epstein and others participated for years in a vast child sex trafficking ring.

Mr Epstein was convicted in 2008 in the United States of sex with a minor.

He was sentenced to a 13-month work release programme, in a deal which many commentators said was extremely lenient.

The second criminal case against him was launched after an Federal Bureau of Investigation search of his Manhattan home resulted in the seizure of what appeared to be photos of naked girls.

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What are the links with France? .

Epstein was known to entertain guests at a luxury apartment on Avenue Foch near the Champs-Elysees.

"The investigations ... will focus on potential crimes committed against French victims on national territory as well as overseas, and on suspects who are French citizens", the statement said.

One of Epstein's close friends was the formerly powerful French modelling tycoon Jean-Luc Brunel, who was accused in court documents of procuring minors for Epstein. He has denied the accusations.

A French advocacy group for child sexual abuse victims, Innocence en Danger, said this week it had received 10 witness statements about alleged sexual crimes committed against minors in France.

Epstein was found dead in his NY prison cell on August 10 in an apparent suicide, later confirmed by an autopsy. An autopsy report concluded he had hanged himself.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has said that the criminal investigation into any possible co-conspirators of Epstein would continue.

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