World / Crime & Legal

French ministers seek probe into late accused U.S. pedophile Jeffrey Epstein

AFP-JIJI

Two French government ministers called Monday for an investigation into the alleged child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein saying a U.S. inquiry had exposed links between the disgraced financier and France.

Epstein, whose suicide in jail over the weekend has outraged his alleged victims, owned an apartment near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and had been in the city just before his arrest in New York last month.

“The American investigation has turned up links with France,” Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said in a joint statement with French child welfare minister Adrien Taquet.

They did not provide details of the alleged links, though a source in Schiappa’s office referred to numerous trips by Epstein to France.

“Epstein’s death must not deprive his victims of justice,” the ministers said.

Their call drew a rebuke from French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, who said in a message sent to AFP that it was not up to the government to decide whether to investigate Epstein’s activities in France.

“(Legal) proceedings are not decided on by the government,” she said, noting that since 2013 it is forbidden in France for a justice minister to give prosecutors instructions relating to individual investigations.

A French advocacy group for child sex abuse victims, Innocence En Danger (Youths at Risk), has also asked French prosecutors to open an inquiry.

Citing a “trustworthy source,” it said “several victims of the prostitution network created by Jeffrey Epstein and his accomplices were French citizens.

“For the moment we haven’t had a response from the prosecutor’s office,” Homayra Sellier, the group’s president, told AFP on Monday.

Epstein, 66, was accused of raping and sexually exploiting dozens of young girls for years, and of also providing teenage victims for friends and acquaintances.

According to U.S. media reports, he kept a “little black book” with the names of over 100 “recruits” from areas where he had residences, including New York and Palm Beach, Florida, as well as Paris.

Prosecutors believe he orchestrated a network of students who were lined up by other young women and then forced to satisfy the hedge fund billionaire’s wishes.

He was facing charges of sex trafficking of minors and of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, which would have carried a maximum of 45 years in prison.

Epstein had pleaded not guilty, but his request for bail had been refused.

He was found hanged in his New York cell on Saturday.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5