By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - Former high society fixture Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty in a US court Wednesday of sex trafficking by grooming girls to be sexually abused by American millionaire Jeffrey Epstein and his friends.
The daughter of media giant Robert Maxwell, Ghislaine Maxwell was the close British pal of Epstein. She was convicted of recruiting girls as young as 14 to go to the wealthy financier's estates in New York, Florida and New Mexico. Once there, they were forced to engage in sex acts, allegedly with various individuals.
Pilots said they flew various luminaries to Epstein's estates. While no charges have been laid against them, names mentioned included British royal Prince Andrew, who is the son of Queen Elizabeth II, and former US presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
Maxwell was found guilty by a jury of six women and six men after six days of deliberation on five of six counts, including sex trafficking of a minor, luring a minor to participate in illegal sex acts and conspiracy. The 60-year-old Maxwell could face up to 70 years in prison.
Epstein, whose fortune was pegged at about US$500 million at the time of his death, committed suicide while awaiting trial, hanging himself in a New York City jail cell in 2019. The crimes took place in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The court heard from about 30 witnesses over a three-week period.
One victim, referred to as Carolyn, told the court she was 14 and one of the underprivileged teens who lived near Epstein's Florida estate and took up an offer of $100 bills in exchange for massages. Maxwell made the arrangements, Carolyn said.
Maxwell's defense lawyers argued that the charges against her “are for things that Jeffrey Epstein did. But she is not Jeffrey Epstein and she is not like Jeffrey Epstein."
During the trial, Maxwell denied all of the charges but refused to testify, telling the judge: "The government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, so there is no reason for me to testify," reported CTV News.