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Epstein associate charged for rape and sexual harassment in France

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By Sandrine Amiel  & AFP
FILE - A man walks his dog next to an apartment building owned by Jeffrey Epstein in the 16th district in Paris, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019.
FILE - A man walks his dog next to an apartment building owned by Jeffrey Epstein in the 16th district in Paris, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019.   -   Copyright  Francois Mori/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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Jean-Luc Brunel, a former modeling agent and an associate of the financier Jeffrey Epstein, was charged for raping minors over the age of 15 and for sexual harassment, French prosecutors said in a statement on Saturday.

Brunel was arrested on Wednesday at a Paris airport before boarding a plane to Senegal. He will be in pre-trial detention as investigations continue, prosecutors said.

The arrest was part of a broader inquiry opened in August 2019, "targeting sexual offenses likely to have been committed by Jeffrey Epstein and possible accomplices on French victims or on French territory," prosecutors said.

Epstein frequently traveled to Paris and owed a luxury flat on the prestigious Avenue Foch.

Brunel is suspected, among other things, of "organizing transport and accommodation of young girls or young women on behalf of Jeffrey Epstein," according to the statement.

He is considered as an "assisted witness" for crimes of "human trafficking of underage victims for the purpose of sexual exploitation," the statement continued -- under French law, this means someone is suspected of a crime without officially being charged for it.

Several former models have also directly accused Brunel of rape. "This is huge news. I cry with joy," said Dutch model Thysia Huisman on Thursday when she learned of the arrest.

According to the AFP, Brunel has denied the charges. His lawyer Corinne Dreyfus-Schmidt could not immediately be reached for comments.

Epstein killed himself last year in jail while facing sex trafficking charges.

His former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, remains behind bars until trial. She is accused of recruiting girls for the financier to sexually abuse.