Jean-Luc Brunel, a former French model agency boss and associate of the late sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein, has been detained and placed under formal investigation for “rape of a minor over 15 and sexual harassment”, the Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz announced on Saturday.
The 74-year-old Mr Brunel was also named as an interested witness in a case of aggravated human trafficking of minors for sexual exploitation, the prosecutor said.
Mr Brunel was stopped at Charles de Gaulle airport on his way to Senegal on Wednesday. “He is suspected of having committed rape, sexual aggression and sexual harassment on different victims, underage and adult, and in particular of having organised the transport and housing of young girls or young women for Jeffrey Epstein,” the French statement said.
Lawyers representing Mr Brunel could not be immediately contacted at the weekend, but when the latest allegations against him emerged in October 2019 they said he firmly contested the accusations and was “not on the run”.
Allegations that Mr Brunel mistreated young models have been in the public domain for more than 30 years. The Epstein case in the US as well as a hardening in France of previously lenient attitudes to sexual abuse and sex between adult men and young girls again brought the accusations to the fore.
Epstein died in jail last year in what was ruled to be suicide after being arrested on federal charges of trafficking underage girls.
Another of Epstein’s former associates, Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the late British newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, was arrested in July on charges that she helped him sexually abuse underage girls.
Dutchwoman Thysia Huisman, whose accusation that she was drugged and raped by Mr Brunel in the early 1990s is covered by a statute of limitations, described his arrest as “amazing news.” She told AFP: “I’m weeping with joy. Eleven women testified against him after me, but all those deeds are prescribed [by time limits]. I hope the police have other files from more recent victims.”
In October last year, French prosecutors did receive a complaint sufficiently recent not to fall under the statute of limitations from a woman whom they did not identify.
France launched its own inquiry into Epstein in August 2019, shortly after the release of a 2016 deposition in which one of his accusers, Virginia Giuffre, said Ms Maxwell directed her to have sex with at least a half-dozen prominent men, including Mr Brunel, who headed the agencies Karin Models and MC2.
Epstein kept a luxury apartment on Avenue Foch in central Paris.