Investigators search sex offender Epstein's Paris flat

Paris (AFP) –


Investigators searched disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein's luxury Paris apartment on Tuesday, advancing a French probe into allegations that the sex offender procured young women to abuse in France.

Epstein was arrested in New York in July on multiple charges of trafficking underage girls for sex.

He was found hanged in his New York jail cell on August 10 while awaiting trial over a string of sordid abuses involving girls at his Palm Beach home and on his private island in the Caribbean.

Epstein's ownership of an apartment in the heart of upmarket Paris and allegations from women who say they were abused in France prompted French prosecutors to open their own criminal probe last month.

Epstein's flat on Avenue Foch near the Champs-Elysees -- one of the world's most exclusive addresses -- was scoured for evidence from Monday afternoon to the early morning hours of Tuesday, a source close to the probe told AFP.

A week earlier, investigators searched the nearby headquarters of Karin Models, an agency founded in 1978 by Epstein associate Jean-Luc Brunel, himself accused of rape and of procuring young girls for his friend.

Epstein, who at one time counted Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Britain's Prince Andrew among his friends, was accused of recruiting teenagers to administer massages which frequently led to abuse and even rape.

- 'Sex slave' -

Last month, the investigation officially spilled over from the US to France when the Paris prosecutor's office opened its own inquiry into claims of rape and sex abuse, including of minors.

The investigation focuses on potential crimes committed against French victims in France as well as abroad, and on suspects who are French citizens, the Paris prosecutor said.

Three women in France have come forward, including a former Dutch model who says she was drugged and raped by Brunel at a Paris flat in the early 1990s.

In the US, Virginia Giuffre filed a suit accusing Epstein of using her as a "sex slave", in which she also said she had been forced to sleep with well-known politicians and businessmen, including Brunel.

Giuffre alleged Brunel would bring girls as young as 12 to the United States and pass them on to his friends, including Epstein.

These claims prompted Brunel to issue a rare statement in 2015 in which he vehemently denied involvement, "directly or indirectly", in any Epstein crimes.

Long before the Epstein scandal broke, Brunel was accused of rape by several models in a 1988 CBS documentary.

Epstein pled guilty in 2008 to procuring for prostitution a girl under the age of 18, and served 13 months in prison before being released on probation.