PARIS – One of Jeffrey Epstein’s most prominent accusers testified in a Paris court this week against French modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, calling on other witnesses to come forward in the high profile sexual assault case.
The closed-door testimony of Virginia Roberts Giuffre, 37, marks the latest twist in the international investigation against Epstein and those accused of being his co-conspirators.
It’s not clear what Giuffre said at the closed hearing, but her court appearance comes after years of allegations against Brunel. Giuffre said in a statement released in 2019 that Epstein and British celebrity Ghislaine Maxwell directed them to provide sexual services to Brunel. And speaking to NBC’s “Dateline” on a special that aired in 2019, Giuffre said Epstein told her he slept with “over a thousand women Brunel brought with him.”
In an interview following her day-long testimony, Giuffre said she appeared in court to be a voice for the victims and to ensure that Brunel is brought to justice.
“I wanted Brunel to know that he no longer has power over me, that I am now a grown woman and that I have decided to hold him accountable for what he has done to me and so many others”, said Giuffre.
In 2019, Paris prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into rape, serious sexual aggression and criminal conspiracy related to offenses of a sexual nature, likely committed by Epstein and other possible accomplices on French victims or on French territory.
Brunel was arrested at Charles de Gaulle airport in December last year while preparing for a flight to Senegal and was being held for questioning as part of the investigation, according to a statement by Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz.
He was formally charged with the rape of at least one minor over the age of 15 and sexual harassment. A statement from Brunel’s lawyers denied any wrongdoing. The Paris public prosecutor did not want to state how many alleged rape victims there were over the age of 15.
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He was also “placed under the status of assisted witness for aggravated human trafficking to the detriment of minor victims for the purpose of sexual exploitation,” the statement said.
Élodie Tuaillon-Hibon, a French lawyer specializing in sexual assault cases, said assisted witness status meant prosecutors did not have enough evidence to charge Brunel with the offense of trafficking in human beings, but this did not include him of an indictment in the future.
“I ask other witnesses to report – even if this is outside the limitation period,” said Giuffre. “The judge listens, the authorities listen, I listen.”
“We want to help put this monster away where it belongs,” she said. “We can’t do that if we don’t all work together.”
Giuffre stressed that the French prosecutors would like to speak to anyone who might have information about Brunel and recently set up a special email address to get tips from the public.
“Whether you witness Jean-Luc Brunel in one place or another – and it doesn’t even have to be that he does something illegal, it can only be that he is placed somewhere, and in that way it can help that To bring together another victim’s story, confirm, “she said.
In a statement emailed, Brunel’s lawyers said they could not comment on the case in detail, but strongly denied that Brunel had a sexual relationship with Giuffre or was involved in sex trafficking.
“When Ms. Virginia Roberts was confronted with her own contradictions and evidence from the trial, she admitted that she made mistakes regarding the locations, dates and people who allegedly attacked her,” the statement said.
Brunel denied wrongdoing in a 2015 lawsuit against Epstein, alleging that “false stories” linking him to Epstein caused him and his modeling agency an “enormous loss of business.”
In the lawsuit, Brunel alleged that several photographers were no longer working with his agency because of the “negative advertising” surrounding Epstein and his illegal activities, and that the advertising “incorrectly” linked Brunel and his agency to these activities, “namely sex trafficking. “
Brunel and Epstein had known each other for years, according to the 2015 lawsuit.
Sigrid McCawley, Giuffre’s Florida-based attorney, said French authorities had worked hard to bring justice to Brunel’s alleged victims and the process was taking time.
“Virginia’s incredible courage to move forward and support the French investigation will pave the way for more to come forward,” she said.
In her 2016 testimony, Giuffre said she was working as a locker room attendant at Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump’s private club, when Maxwell recruited her for training as a masseuse. She says Epstein and Maxwell then hunted her for years.
The account was in 2,000 pages of documents released in 2019 by a federal appeals court in connection with a 2015 defamation lawsuit brought by Giuffre against Maxwell. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2017.
Epstein, 66, died of suicide in a federal prison cell in New York City in August 2019 while awaiting trial for sex trafficking and conspiracy. He could face up to 45 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors in New York alleged that Epstein paid girls aged 14 to have sex in his Manhattan townhouse or Florida estate from at least 2002 to 2005. He hadn’t pleaded guilty.
Previously, in 2008, he pleaded guilty to having procured a person under the age of 18 for prostitution and prosecution. He served 13 months and was registered as a sex offender in Florida under a non-prosecution agreement he signed with the US Attorney’s Office for Miami.
Maxwell, his longtime confidante, was arrested in July and is on remand in New York. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include conspiracy to lure minors, conspiracy to transport minors, conspiracy to trade in sex, and sex trafficking in minors.
Prosecutors accused her of playing a key role in Epstein’s abuse of underage girls, caring for victims and encouraging them to accept his offers of financial assistance. The original indictment alleges Maxwell sometimes participated in the abuse.
Sources close to the state investigation of Epstein and his coworkers said it is still an active investigation.
Maxwell’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.