As Ghislaine Maxwell’s years-long plummet from grace concludes with her settling into a prison cell at the minimum security Federal Correctional Institution in subtropical Tallahassee, the enduring mystery around her dealings with Jeffrey Epstein—the who, what, and why—will remain, for the time being.
Still, so much remains unanswered in the Epstein-Maxwell saga: What was the point of the industrial-scale grooming operation the socialite and the late supposed billionaire financier operated together? Did Epstein, who had a reputation as a cold fish, really have Olympian carnal needs? Who else was involved in their many crimes? Then there’s one of the most burning questions: Where are the videotapes from inside Epstein’s homes, which from some accounts, could incriminate multiple world leaders?
Maxwell, the ringleader, the chief procurer, was convicted of sex trafficking in December. Numerous victims and witnesses testified in depositions that over many years, she’d groomed untold numbers of barely pubescent girls, usually from poorer families—broken girls who bounced from home to home. Maxwell would refer to the girls as her “nubiles;” she also called them “trash.” A few hundred dollars went a long way with the ones she preyed upon.
Now, the Oxford-educated socialite will spend the last decades of her life confined in a penal institution with adult versions of precisely the type of girl she assumed her victims to be—underprivileged, damaged and, she believed, willing to demean themselves in service of a man with whom she’d been entwined in a complex and mysterious relationship.
When after five days of deliberation in December she was convicted by a jury on five sex trafficking-related counts, prosecutors rested their case against Maxwell. But will the Epstein saga ever truly be put to bed?
Officials, as far as is known, never followed leads that some intelligence agents say they believe suggest Epstein and Maxwell were running a foreign influence operation. Some of the sources I interviewed for a three-part documentary on Maxwell say that Epstein was the male body on which the “nubiles” were trained, so they’d know their way around an adult penis. The aptest of pupils, the sources say, were later tasked to perform on high–powered men, recorded on the video cameras installed in every room in all of his properties.
Epstein’s victims, and spectators alike, say they still think Maxwell can spill the beans on all of this, divulging the names of these high-profile men to reduce her time in that Tallahassee prison. Meanwhile, lawyers still argue over hundreds of still-redacted names seen in documents related to Maxwell’s cases. Can these individuals—whose names have remained out of the public eye—now rest easy?
The black hole of the Epstein story has sucked many very public men in over its event horizon. British Royal Prince Andrew is banished from the family; billionaire investor Leon Black, whose $150 million mystery payments to Epstein remain unexplained, lost his chairmanship and his seat at the Museum of Modern Art; Barclays CEO Jes Staley resigned over his relationship with Epstein; octogenarian lawyer Alan Dershowitz is spending his last years suing his accuser; and Bill Gates saw the end of his long marriage to Melinda Gates, at least in part over his friendship with Epstein. Meanwhile, other names have leaked through redactions into court documents, never to be seen again. For two examples, former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and former senator and Mideast peace process negotiator George Mitchell have both denied Virginia Giuffre’s claims that she was trafficked to them.
Conservative media outlets obsess over what Maxwell may know about the biggest prize of all: Bill Clinton, whose trips on Epstein’s private plane are swathed in mystery. Surely, it is insinuated that there was more going on than free rides to Rabat or Paris.
There, in Tallahassee, there’s one woman who can answer so many questions about all of those men—and about so many more elite and powerful string-pullers. But will she ever spill?
Daddy’s Little Girl
Ghislaine Noelle Marion Maxwell was born on Christmas day, 1961, in Maisons Laffitte, France. As so many women who reach the last third of their lives do, she must remake herself—but as an inmate, likely for the next 20 years.
Residing in Florida now is a homecoming of sorts for Maxwell, the Sunshine State being where she sashayed into spas, clubs, and even Christian colleges to ensnare her “nubiles” in service of her late former boss. Tallahassee, however, is no Palm Beach and there are no pools or massage rooms to enjoy in federal prison; and if there are sex toys around, there’s no houseman around to wash them after use.
When she concludes her 20 years in Tallahassee, Maxwell will be 81 years old. Yes, she currently plans to appeal her case, but her new lawyers have announced they won’t even be filing for that until 2023. She did, in the end, put up a good fight for freedom, with a team of expensive lawyers valiantly trying to, as they put it, “attest to Ghislaine’s character… in sharp contrast to her characterization as a villain, rich heiress, and vapid socialite.”
These high-priced lawyers and the Maxwell family, in letters to the court, put forth that she was abused as a child by her father, Robert Maxwell, writing, “Mr. Maxwell employed corporal punishment on his children. Ghislaine vividly recalls a time when, at age 13, she tacked a poster of a pony on the newly painted wall of her bedroom. Rather than mar the paint with tape, she carefully hammered a thin tack to mount the poster. This outraged her father, who took the hammer and banged on Ghislaine’s dominant hand, leaving it severely bruised and painful for weeks to come.”
Robert Maxwell shipped little Ghislaine off to boarding school at age seven, On visits home, she and the siblings were subjected to her father’s peculiar dinner table habit of forcing his kids to answer questions about current events and history; if they stumbled at all, he’d humiliate them and send them away in tears.
A Holocaust survivor, war hero, and man of great wealth and access, Robert Maxwell is credibly linked to occasional intelligence work. Once, while his daughter was a girl, with the family on his yacht, he had his wife, Elisabeth, sew a flag the colors of the Bulgarian flag out of napkins, and sailed into the harbor of Varna, Bulgaria, past a Soviet warship.
Maxwell’s work moving Soviet Jews out of Russia and into Israel left him with strong connections to both the Mossad and KGB. He was comfortable in the quasi-criminal shadow world where nations and individuals move money and weapons. He helped communist dictators move billions of dollars out of Bulgaria—money that went to help launch branches of the post-Soviet Slavic mafias, which then cornered the market on crime and violence.
Robert Maxwell is also implicated in the Iran Contra affair and the transfer of tracking technology called PROMIS, which the CIA altered with a backdoor, through Israel and to the KGB. Like his daughter, he mastered forging powerful connections; U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s stepfather, Samuel Pisar, was Maxwell’s “lawyer and confidante.”
However, when Robert Maxwell’s naked corpse turned up off the Canary Islands on Guy Fawkes Day, 1991, just as he was about to be accused of losing or stealing half a billion dollars in pension money, his legacy drowned too. His children were left financially reduced and the shame of a disgraced family name to bear.
From that low point, Maxwell air kissed her way into the arms of the American aristocracy. Almost no one will admit it now, but they appear with her, in nearly 2,000 Getty Images photos: Manhattan’s most powerful, arm in arm with a beaming Ghislaine.
In pleading for leniency, family and shrinks contended Maxwell was in thrall to Epstein’s manipulative personality because it matched that of her father. They point out that all her post-Epstein attempts to build normal relationships— first with tech entrepreneur Ted Waitt and then her apparent husband, Scott Borgerson—were doomed by her prior attachment to Epstein.
Her lawyers say in court filings that Waitt ditched her after being blackmailed by now-convicted Florida lawyer and fraudster Scott Rothstein, who demanded money to keep Maxwell’s name out of civil lawsuits his firm was filing for some of Epstein’s victims in the 2010s. (Rothstein has so many enemies that the feds have him locked up at an undisclosed location.) Borgerson stood by Maxwell through bail requests but the marriage, per her lawyers in Maxwell’s sentencing filing, is over.
The Tantalizing John Doe Mysteries
Down in Tallahassee, the prospect of being deeply geriatric, if she lives to walk free, must be haunting for Maxwell. This is a woman who flew helicopters and drove submarines. Can distractions like helping fellow inmates with their GEDs or working as an orderly (both of which she apparently did when locked up in a Brooklyn pen while awaiting trial) keep her mind off memories of galas at Buckingham Palace and shooting weekends with Prince Andrew at Sandringham—or the orgies with Epstein and the nubiles?
As Epstein’s madam, Maxwell knows a lot of big secrets. Two years in the Brooklyn dungeon didn’t break her silence. But will the prospect of 20 years in a balmy minimum security prison do the trick? The case may be over, but these redacted John Does are still fighting to keep their names out of the public record. The redactions are, indeed, tantalizing; take this transcript from one of Maxwell’s depositions:
- Did you ever provide Virginia Roberts with an outfit, an outfit of a sexual nature to wear for REDACTED?
- I think we addressed the outfit issue.
- I am asking you if you ever provided her with an outfit of a sexual nature to wear for REDACTED?
Inquiring minds might like to know which John Doe is fighting to make sure his wife and friends do not know about that particular sexy adventure. Prosecutors, however, might not care.
Over 150 redacted names appear in the Maxwell litigation. Most are victims, however, and the majority of them are women—though a few male victims are said to be among the filings. Attorney Spencer Kuvin, who represents some of the victims, explained: “We list females as “John Doe”—it is a legal term of art,” he said. “So a John Doe could be a public figure or a victim.”
Many of those familiar with the Epstein-Maxwell saga with whom I spoke don’t think she has much of a chance at this point of trading names for a reduced sentence. Salacious or embarrassing information about public figures might make Melinda Gates even angrier at her ex or give the right-wing trolls more ammo against the Clintons. Shame, however, is worthless to the government if it comes without evidence that leads to prosecutions.
“If she has evidence she could trade to prosecute somebody, she may be able to trade that to get a reduced sentence,” Kuvin said. “But if she says, for example, Bill Clinton had sex with a 15-year-old, and they go interview the girl who is now in her 20s, and she says ‘I don’t want anything to do with it,’ it’s useless.
“If they haven’t been already smeared with it, they probably are not going to be,” Kuvin added.
Victims’ lawyers like Kuvin insist that many more Epstein clients, friends, and John Does remain in the shadows. But the trafficked women can’t name them, as their continuing silence is part of their settlement with the Epstein victims fund. Lawyers do know their names but are bound by attorney-client confidentiality rules.
This is all still a dangerous and quite lucrative game—for all of the lawyers, at least—and just the kind of game Maxwell, her father, and Epstein enjoyed playing. One that seems to never have an end in sight.
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