Why Untangling Epstein's Mysterious Estate Could Take Years
Her townhouse in Manhattan has been sold. Her home in London sits dark. And along the rocky north shore of Boston, past signs marked “No Trespassing,” the latest trail has gone cold.
Where is Ghislaine Maxwell?
The question gained new urgency on Wednesday as television news trucks descended on picturesque Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, in search of Maxwell, whose long entanglement with Jeffrey Epstein has made her a figure of international intrigue.
The media scrum was prompted by a report in Britain’s Daily Mail that said Maxwell -- whom employees at Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion referred to as the “lady of the house” -- was hiding out in an oceanfront mansion here.
But there were no signs of Maxwell at the grand home perched above the Atlantic, if indeed she ever was here. Beyond the long, tree-lined drive, the white colonial, known as Tidewood, appeared to be empty. From the great room overlooking the water to the seven bedrooms, the place was dark. The Mail, citing anonymous sources, said Maxwell had rarely ventured out. The owner of the house, tech entrepreneur Scott Borgerson, yesterday denied that Maxwell is hiding out in his property, adding that he’d asked local police to check the residence.
After Epstein died in a Manhattan jail cell on Aug. 10, apparently of suicide, new scrutiny turned to Maxwell, the one-time British socialite accused in civil lawsuits of procuring high-school age women for the wealthy financier. She has never been charged with any crime, and has continued to deny wrongdoing.
The circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death –- two guards supposed to check on him had reportedly fallen asleep and falsified records to cover up the mistake while an autopsy found Epstein had sustained a broken neck bone often found in the victims of homicide by strangulation -- only intensified questions swirling around the case, and around Maxwell.
In London’s Belgravia neighborhood, cobwebs hang in the windowsills of the three-story mews home that records show Maxwell owns. She sold her townhouse on 65th Street in Manhattan in 2016. Lawyers representing her in a civil suit told a U.S. court in 2017 that they didn’t believe that she had a permanent residence.
That low profile is likely to be further tested in the coming weeks now that prosecutors have signaled others may be charged with aiding Epstein in the crimes with which he was charged when he was arrested on July 6. “Our investigation of the conduct charged in the indictment -- which included a conspiracy count -- remains ongoing,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
Those closest to Epstein may have the most to fear. “People who should be nervous are the circle of potential individuals who enabled and facilitated this behavior,” said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor and a lawyer at Tucker Levin in New York.
Maxwell, 57, was a central figure in Epstein’s world before he pleaded guilty in Florida in 2008 to two state counts of soliciting prostitution, one involving a minor. They were pictured together at events in Manhattan and Maxwell has been credited with introducing Epstein to New York society.
Over the past few weeks, Maxwell hasn’t responded to emails, phone calls and letters seeking comment. Jeffrey Pagliuca, a lawyer representing Maxwell in various civil suits, didn’t respond to a request for comment. London-based Malcolm Grumbridge, a longtime lawyer for the Maxwell family, has declined to comment.
This reticence is a marked shift for the Briton born in the public eye. The youngest daughter of publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell, she grew up in English high society. Her father doted on her, naming his superyacht after her.
He died in 1991 while cruising on that boat, the Lady Ghislaine. After his body was found in the waters off the Canary Islands, it emerged he had taken 350 million pounds (US$600 million) from the pension funds of Mirror Group Newspapers.
The collapse of the Maxwell business empire saw Ghislaine Maxwell’s gilded world fracture. The 80,000 pound annual stipend from her trust fund that has been reported in the British press wouldn’t have kept the then 29-year-old in the style to which she had become accustomed.
After arriving in New York, she fell in with Epstein in the 1990s. Initially romantically involved, they remained close even after they split, with Epstein describing Maxwell as his “best friend” in a 2003 Vanity Fair article.
Manifests for Epstein’s private jet show Maxwell flew frequently on his planes. She helped manage his life. Artist Nelson Shanks said in a 2002 lawsuit that Maxwell contacted him on behalf of Epstein to commission a portrait of the family of Leslie Wexner, the retail billionaire for whom Epstein was a long-time financial adviser. When journalist David Bank visited Epstein on his private Caribbean island in January 2003, Maxwell met him at St. Croix airport, gave him a tour of Epstein’s private jet and then piloted the helicopter that took him to Little St. James.
For years, Maxwell remained a fixture at events, including Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2010 and Vanity Fair’s Oscar party, where she was photographed next to Elon Musk. In 2014, she gave speeches about the oceanic conservation work of her TerraMar Project at the United Nations and a TedX conference in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Such appearances started to wane after her name continued to appear in the depositions and complaints of the civil suits. Virginia Giuffre, who claims to have been a sex slave of Epstein, sued her for defamation in 2015, and the unsealing of files relating to that case on Aug. 9 made public details of Giuffre’s allegations against Maxwell as well as prominent business and political figures.
What’s known of Maxwell’s business dealings show she had contact with some of the U.K.’s grandest families. Between 2005 and 2012 she was a director of a now liquidated U.K. makeup company whose founder, Jemma Kidd, is the daughter-in-law of the Duke of Wellington. The Rothschild family were shareholders in the company.
Her once powerhouse network seems to have become increasingly tenuous in recent years. The now defunct TerraMar website included praise from billionaire Richard Branson. That contact came about after Maxwell pitched her non-profit to the Ocean Elders, a group of businessmen and scientists that aims to promote ocean conservation.
The backing was less impressive than it seemed. The luminaries agreed to promote the project with “some blogs and quotes in its early days,” Branson spokesman Nick Fox said. “There was nothing more undertaken or agreed to.”