Epstein Affiliate Is Charged With Rape of Minors in France
PARIS – A former French modeling agent closely linked to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein has been charged with rape of minors over the age of 15 and sexual harassment, the Paris prosecutor said Saturday.
According to the Paris public prosecutor Rémi Heitz, the employee Jean-Luc Brunel (74) is also being investigated on suspicion of trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation.
“He is suspected of raping, sexually assaulting and sexually harassing various victims, both minors and adults, and in particular organizing the transportation and accommodation of girls and young women on behalf of Jeffrey Epstein,” said the prosecutor.
Mr. Brunel’s lawyer did not respond to interview requests. In a statement in October 2019, his lawyer Corinne Dreyfus-Schmidt stated that Mr. Brunel was available to answer questions from investigating judges and that he emphatically denied the allegations of sexual abuse.
The charges against Mr Brunel, who has been placed in pre-trial detention, are a significant development in a broader investigation launched by the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office in August 2019 to uncover possible crimes committed either in France or against French victims abroad in connection with the Epstein scandal were committed.
French law criminalizes sex between an adult and a minor under the age of 15. A sexual relationship between an adult and a minor over the age of 15 is legal, unless allegations of sexual abuse can be supported by circumstances such as coercion.
Mr. Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan prison cell last year, aged 66. He was awaiting trial for the sexual exploitation and abuse of dozens of girls and young women at his Manhattan mansion, Palm Beach estate, and other locations. More than a decade earlier, he had been convicted of prostitution of a minor and registered as a sex offender.
In 2015, Mr. Brunel denied any involvement in Mr. Epstein’s alleged crimes.
Mr Brunel was arrested on Wednesday at an airport near Paris. He had no legal restrictions at the time and was free to travel.
From the 1970s, Mr. Brunel began a successful career as a model agent in France. He then expanded his career to the United States, where he met and befriended Mr. Epstein. He often traveled with him and socialized before the two dropped out when sex trafficking allegations surfaced against the financier.
At least one of Mr Epstein’s accusers has said that Mr Brunel used his position as a model scout to attract minors to Mr Epstein, who came into contact with Wall Street politicians, celebrities and executives. Mr. Epstein owned an apartment in an upscale Paris neighborhood and traveled regularly to France.
French police last year raided the offices of Karin Models, a modeling agency that Mr Brunel once ran, and searched Mr Epstein’s apartment.
Virginia Giuffre, one of Mr. Epstein’s accusers, said in a petition in federal court in New York that Mr. Brunel would offer modeling jobs to girls – some as young as 12 – and take them to the US to “farm” them at his Friends, especially to Epstein. “
Ms. Giuffre also said Mr. Epstein had sexually trafficked her “on multiple occasions and in numerous locations” including southern France, according to court records.
Thysia Huisman, a former Dutch model who accused Mr Brunel of drugging and raping her in Paris in 1991, said she reported Mr Brunel to the French police in September 2019 after opening her investigation into Mr Epstein’s business .
She was aware that the statute of limitations on rape cases in France had expired, she said, but she hoped “to motivate other victims to come forward”.
Aurelien Breeden contributed to the reporting.