PARIS — Prominent French modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, a former close associate of disgraced American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, has been detained in France on accusations of sex crimes, prosecutors said on Thursday.
Brunel was detained on Wednesday on accusations of rape, sexual assault of minors, human trafficking and being part of a criminal conspiracy, Paris prosecutors told AFP.
He was detained at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport as he was about to take a plane to Senegal, a source close to the case added.
Epstein, who was arrested in New York in July on charges of trafficking underage girls for sex, was found hanged in his New York jail cell on August 10, 2019, while awaiting trial over abuses involving girls at his Palm Beach home and on his private island in the Caribbean.
His ownership of an apartment in an upmarket Paris district and allegations from women who say they were abused in France prompted French prosecutors to open their own criminal probe in August.
The investigation opened by France into Epstein’s activities has focused on Brunel, who was accused in American court documents of rape and of procuring young girls for his friend.
“The victims have long awaited the arrest of Jean-Luc Brunel. They welcome his detention with relief and with confidence in the legal process,” said lawyer Anne-Claire Lejeune, who represents several victims.
“This is huge news. I am crying with joy,” said Thysia Huisman, a former Dutch model who says she was “drugged and raped” by Brunel at the age of 18.
The detention at the airport of Brunel ends over a year of uncertainty and mystery over his whereabouts.
Brunel’s lawyer in October 2019 said he vehemently rejected allegations made in the press but denied his client was on the run, insisting he was available for questioning.
French police last year raided the offices of Karin Models, an agency founded by Brunel, and searched Epstein’s luxury Paris home not far from the Arc de Triomphe.