A former associate of deceased US financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has been placed under formal investigation and remanded in custody in France on suspicion of sex crimes.
French modelling agent Jean-Luc Brunel is accused of sexual harassment and the rape of minors aged between 15 and 18.
Mr Brunel, 74, has denied wrongdoing.
Epstein died in a New York prison last year as he awaited trial over allegations he ran a network using underage girls for sex.
“This is what the victims have been waiting for for many years,” said lawyer Anne-Claire Le Jeune, who is representing Mr Brunel’s accusers.
He co-founded French modelling agency Karin Models in 1977, and MC2 Model Management in the US with funding from Epstein.
US court documents allege that Mr Brunel procured girls for Epstein, flying them from France to the US and promising them modelling contracts.
Virginia Giuffre, one of the main complainants in Epstein’s prosecution, also claims to have been forced into sex with Mr Brunel.
His arrest is the result of an inquiry by French prosecutors into rape and sexual assault allegations against Epstein, focusing on potential crimes committed against French victims and suspects who are French citizens.
French police last year raided the offices of Karin Models and a flat near the Arc de Triomphe owned by Epstein.
Before his death, Epstein was charged in New York with sex trafficking and conspiracy and was awaiting trial.
He was already a convicted sex offender, having pleaded guilty to prostitution charges involving a minor in Florida in 2008.
Epstein sex trafficking case: Timeline
- 2005: One of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims, aged 14, reports him to the police in Palm Beach
- 2006: Epstein is charged with unlawful sex acts with a minor
- 2007: A plea deal is struck – instead of facing federal sex-trafficking charges, Epstein pleads guilty to two charges of soliciting prostitution, including with a minor
- 2008: Epstein gets an 18-month sentence following the plea deal
- November 2018: The Miami Herald publishes an investigation into Epstein, the plea deal, and the dozens of women alleging abuse
- July 2019: Epstein is arrested again, accused of sex trafficking of underage girls over a number of years
- August 2019: Epstein is found dead in his prison cell while awaiting trial
- 2 July 2020: Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and friend Epstein, is arrested at her New Hampshire home
- 14 July 2020: Ms Maxwell pleads not guilty to charges of trafficking minors for Epstein and is denied bail