She has been in prison awaiting the start of the trial for 15 months – since she was tracked down by the FBI and arrested in July 2020.
The daughter of deceased media mogul Robert Maxwell could be sentenced to up to 35 years in prison if found guilty of the charges.
Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?
Maxwell is likely to turn 60 this year on Christmas Day in a harsh New York prison cell.
In contrast to her current conditions, she was born in France the youngest of nine children into a wealthy and highly-connected family.
Her father Robert – born into a poor family in former Czechoslovakia – was a former Labour MP, owner of The Mirror in Britain and the Daily News in New York among other publications, and misappropriator of his workers’ pension funds.
Robert’s body was found floating off the Canary Islands after he went missing from his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine.
Maxwell said in 1997 that she believed her father was murdered.
There are rumours he was an agent for Israeli spy agency, Mossad.
How did she know Jeffrey Epstein?
In 1991 Maxwell met Epstein, who died in jail two years ago. They had been romantically involved and stayed close friends for decades.
Prosecutors allege that Maxwell first helped Epstein procure underage girls in 1994.
Sisters Maria and Annie Farmer claimed that they were both sexually assaulted by Epstein and Maxwell.
Annie said in 2019 that she was lured to Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico. She stated in court papers that Maxwell insisted on giving her a massage before Epstein tried to restrain and sexually assault her.
She alleged that the couple “worked as a team” in “grooming” girls.
Before his death, Epstein was to stand trial after a number of women came forward to say how they were exploited by him and Maxwell. More women emerged to talk about their experiences after he died.
And what about Prince Andrew?
Ghislaine Maxwell was a close associate of the Duke of York, but it is not certain how they met. Maxwell was the one who introduced Epstein, who she had been dating, to him in the 1990s.
Photos from 2000 show the trio at Royal Ascot and attending a party thrown by the prince at the Queen’s Sandringham House.
In 2009, Virginia Roberts Giuffre sued Epstein claiming Maxwell had recruited her as a “sex slave” when she was a teenager working at former US president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
She had settled her lawsuit with Epstein – but the allegations resurfaced in 2015 after more women spoke out against Epstein.
Ms Giuffre claims that Maxwell had told her on three occasions to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17.
Now 38, Ms Giuffre has filed a New York civil case against Prince Andrew. He has strongly denied all the allegations.
What has Prince Andrew said?
The Duke of York has refused to publically discuss charges against Maxwell and repeatedly denied the allegations against him.
He said, in his widely-criticised November 2019 interview with the BBC: “I can categorically tell you it never happened. I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady [Giuffre] – none whatsoever.”
He came under fire for defending his continuing friendship with Epstein after the latter was made in 2008 to serve 13 months of an 18-month sentence for soliciting a minor for prostitution.
Despite the prince insisting he cannot remember Giuffre, a photo has emerged of his hand around her waist in Maxwell’s house in London.
A former employee of Epstein also claimed that they had seen the duke acting in a sexual manner towards Giuffre.
What is going to happen in Maxwell’s trial?
Maxwell could spend decades in prison if she is found guilty of sex trafficking. It is expected her trial could reveal more high-profile figures implicated in the abuse scandal – including Prince Andrew’s.
Prosecutors have charged her with conspiracy and enticing minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, and the transportation of minors to engage in criminal sexual activity for allegedly grooming and recruiting underage girls from 1994 to 1997.
She is also being charged with sex trafficking of a minor from 2001 to 2004, in addition to one count of sex trafficking conspiracy.
Maxwell has pleaded not guilty, and her lawyers have argued that she is being tried in place of Epstein – a claim prosecutors reject.
Why has she been in prison?
Maxwell has been considered a flight risk because she has a fortune of about £20 million as well as British, French and US passports.
After Epstein’s arrest and death, she kept a very low profile to avoid detection. The FBI found her on a remote estate in New Hampshire almost exactly one year he died.
Prosecuters have said that Maxwell refused to answer the door to FBI agents, who were forced to break it down to arrest her. Maxwell’s lawyers’ applications for bail were turned down, including an offer of £21 million.
There are also claims that her health has deteriorated under 24-hour surveillance in a tiny prison cell, with a concrete bed, and no natural light. Her brother Ian alleges her eyesight is failing and her hair is falling out.
Prison officials say the surveillance is designed to prevent Maxwell harming herself in the light of Epstein’s cell death.
What happened to Epstein?
In July 2019, Epstein was arrested when he arrived on a private jet in New Jersey from France.
He was charged with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy.
One month later, Epstein, 66, was found dead in a Manhattan prison cell while awaiting trial.
A medical examiner ruled that the death was caused by suicide – but reports that suicide watch procedures were not followed, and that the prison’s CCTV malfunctioned, sparked theories that he may have been assassinated due to his links to wealthy and powerful people.