A French former modelling agent and ex-associate of American pedophile Jeffrey Epstein has been arrested after being accused of rape and human trafficking, the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Thursday.
Paris-born Jean-Luc Brunel, who is also accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment in US legal documents, was reportedly held at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on Wednesday as he attempted to fly to the Senegalese capital, Dakar.
Brunel’s arrest comes after he was placed under investigation by French authorities, as part of an inquiry launched last year into the alleged sexual exploitation of women and girls by Epstein and his other associates.
Several of those to accuse Brunel of rape are top former models, and he is also alleged to have procured young women for Epstein, the disgraced financier who was found hanged in his New York police cell in August 2019.
The wealthy American had been awaiting trial after he was jailed for trafficking underage girls for sex, including at his properties in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida.
Brunel has denied all the accusations against him, and in 2015 he sued Epstein, claiming that his legal difficulties had unfairly damaged the reputation of the Frenchman’s agency.
“The victims have long awaited the arrest of Jean-Luc Brunel,” said Anne-Claire Lejeune, a lawyer representing several of his alleged victims.
“They welcome this custody with relief, and confidence in the legal consequences that will be given. Their word finally takes on a meaning.”
Ex-model Thysia Huisman, who accused Brunel of drugging and raping her when she was 18, said: “This is huge news. I cry with joy.”
Brunel founded agencies MC2 Model Management, which was funded by Epstein, and Karin Models, which had its offices raided by French police last year.
Epstein was known to travel to Paris, where he owned a luxury apartment which police also searched last year. He was arrested and charged in July 2019 for sex trafficking and conspiracy after allegations he’d abused dozens of girls as young as 14, including on his private island in the Caribbean.
This week his ex-girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, proposed a $28.5m bail package in order to be freed this year from a jail in New York, where she is awaiting a trial which is set to begin in 2021.
The former British socialite was arrested in July following claims she had sourced underage girls for Epstein to abuse in the mid-1990s, and if convicted she could face 35 years in prison.
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