In Brief

Jeffrey Epstein ‘paid girls as young as 14 for sex’

Billionaire charged with sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking

Billionaire American hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein has been charged with sex trafficking.

The 66-year-old, who was arrested on Saturday in New York, was also charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy, in response to allegations suggesting he ran a “vast network of underage girls for sex”, says the BBC.

Sky News reports that the charges relate to underage girls, and that it is alleged Epstein abused the children in his Palm Beach mansion in Florida.

The indictment claims that the American “intentionally sought out minors and knew that many of his victims were in fact under the age of 18, including because, in some instances, minor victims expressly told him their age”.

The girls, some as young as 14, were allegedly given hundreds of dollars for sex acts. The indictment adds that in some cases they would be asked to carry out a massage nude before being subjected to sexual abuse. 

The accused “also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused”, the document alleges.

“In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit, often on a daily basis,” the US Attorney's office said. The prosecution says Epstein's alleged behavior “shocks the conscience”.

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Epstein is expected to plead not guilty to the charges when he appears in court. Reports suggest he could remain in custody until a bail hearing on Thursday. Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said prosecutors will ask that he be detained pending trial.

“While the charged conduct is from a number of years ago, the victims - then children and now young women - are no less entitled to their day in court,” he said in a statement.

Epstein was previously accused of abusing dozens of teenage girls between 1999 and 2007. He agreed a plea deal to avoid federal sex trafficking charges in the case by pleading guilty to lesser Florida state charges of soliciting and procuring a person under the age of 18 for prostitution. He spent 13 months in jail and was registered as a sex offender.

Prior to his prison sentence, Epstein was a known friend of Prince Andrew, former US President Bill Clinton and current President Donald Trump. 

Speaking to New York magazine in 2002, Donald Trump said: “I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it - Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

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