With world leaders, including Donald Trump, gathered in southern France for a G7 summit this weekend, the timing of this announcement by French authorities is interesting. On Friday, authorities said they had started a rape investigation of the late pedophile and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and those associated with him.
According to the Associated Press, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz opened a preliminary investigation of allegations involving the rape of minors and other charges after French authorities received “elements” and had “exchanges” with American authorities regarding the case.
Epstein, 66, was arrested in the U.S. in early July upon returning from France and was charged with the sex trafficking of minors. Facing up to 45 years in prison if convicted, Epstein hung himself at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, New York, a month later.
French authorities say they have information that involves additional victims of Epstein’s, whose ages are 15 and older. According to the AP, Epstein owned a luxury apartment on Avenue Foch, near the iconic Arc de Triomphe.
The French advocacy group for child sex victims Innocence En Danger said it had received statements from 10 witnesses alleging Epstein had committed sex crimes against minors in France, according to the BBC. The group had urged authorities to start the probe.
On Friday, Innocence En Danger said it welcomed the announcement by the Paris Prosecutor’s Office and would provide authorities “the content of the information and testimonies it has received in recent weeks so as to enable investigators to carry out all investigations necessary to uncover the truth.”
Also of interest to investigators, according to the AP, is Jean-Luc Brunel, a French citizen who owns a modeling agency and was a close companion of Epstein’s. One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, has said that she was directed to have sex with Brunel, along with other prominent men including former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, attorney Alan Dershowitz, and Prince Andrew. All of the men deny the claims.
The Duke of York’s involvement with Epstein has created an ongoing scandal in the U.K. that Andrew has tried—and so far failed—to quash. The Mail on Sunday reported that Andrew spent nearly a week with Epstein at his New York mansion in 2010. This revelation comes a day after Andrew sought to downplay his relationship with Epstein, claiming the two men saw each other only “infrequently,” according to The Mail.
“I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we now know,” Andrew stated.
All of this means that following Epstein’s death, the investigation into his crimes—and those of his powerful associates—has now gone global.
The charges being investigated in France include rape of minors 15 and older, sexual aggression, and criminal association with a view of committing crimes, the AP said. Once a preliminary investigation is finished, authorities will decide either to issue formal charges or close the case.