Ghislaine Maxwell, the long-term confidante of notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested in the US on Thursday over her alleged role in the abuse of girls by her former boyfriend.
Some of Epstein’s alleged victims have said Ms Maxwell lured them into his circle, where they were sexually abused by him and powerful friends. Mr Epstein described her as his “best friend”.
Ms Maxwell – the daughter of a controversial British media magnate - has kept a low profile since the death of Epstein, a financier who was accused of raping and trafficking underage girls over nearly two decades.
The 58-year-old was arrested in the state of New Hampshire by the FBI and was expected in court later accused of six counts relating to the sexual abuse and trafficking of children.
Among the most sensational accusations was a claim by one Epstein victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, that Ms Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Britain's Prince Andrew at her London townhouse. Prince Andrew, the son of Queen Elizabeth, denied her story.
Ms Maxwell was said to have introduced the two men, who remained in contact even after the financier was jailed in 2008 for soliciting prostitution with an underage girl.
Prince Andrew stepped down from royal duties after an interview last year with the BBC in which he was widely criticised for failing to express sufficient sympathy for victims of the financier who killed himself in a Manhattan jail that summer.
Ms Maxwell is said to have started a romantic relationship with Epstein after she moved to New York in the 1990s to work selling property. She was described in a lawsuit by another Epstein victim, Sarah Ransome, as the “highest-ranking employee” of Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking enterprise.
She oversaw and trained recruiters, developed recruiting plans and helped conceal the activity from law enforcement, the lawsuit alleged.
She largely disappeared from public view in 2016. The Washington Post reported in August that neighbours said Ms Maxwell had been living in a secluded oceanfront mansion in Massachusetts owned by a technology entrepreneur, Scott Borgerson, who declined to tell the newspaper whether Ms Maxwell had lived there with him.