Millionaire and model scout Jean-Luc Brunel, an alleged associate of the late Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested in France, according to news reports.
Brunel, who had been missing for over a year, was detained Wednesday on accusations of rape, sexual assault of minors, human trafficking and taking part in a criminal conspiracy, prosecutors told Agence France-Presse on Thursday.
A source close to the case said he had been arrested at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport trying to board a plane to Senegal, AFP reported.
He could be held for questioning for up to 96 hours, according to Bloomberg.
France opened an investigation into Brunel in August 2019, igniting the hunt for the modeling agency boss who has long been linked to Epstein, The New York Times reported.
— New York Post (@nypost) December 17, 2020
However, a report in Britain’s Mirror a month after the investigation opened said that the millionaire had vanished, calling him a “ghost who has disappeared without a trace.”
“The victims have long awaited the arrest of Jean-Luc Brunel,” lawyer Anne-Claire Lejeune told AFP following his arrest.
“They welcome his detention with relief and with confidence in the legal process.”
A former Dutch model, Thysia Huisman, who says she was “drugged and raped” by Brunel, told AFP, “This is huge news. I am crying with joy.”
Brunel has been accused of being part of Epstein’s network.
According to the U.K. Guardian, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who has accused Epstein of sexual abuse, alleged in court papers that Brunel “farmed out” young women to Epstein. She also said she was forced to have sex with Brunel.
“The guy was a vile pig,” said Clayton Nelson, a photographer who worked for Brunel, according to The Guardian. “The girls who slept with him worked. The girls who didn’t, he would tell bookers: ‘I don’t want her booked for anything.’”
Brunel in 2015 denied any such allegations, according to The Guardian.
“I strongly deny having participated, neither directly nor indirectly, in the actions Mr. Jeffrey Epstein is being accused of,” he said at the time. “I strongly deny having committed any illicit act or any wrongdoing in the course of my work as a scouter or model agencies manager.”
Epstein was being held in the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City facing child sex trafficking charges at the time of his death, which was ruled a suicide. Those charges were dismissed in August 2019, which left his alleged victims angry, as many said during a hearing called to allow them the opportunity to speak before the case was closed.
Brunel and Epstein’s alleged relationship is documented in flight logs for the late financier’s private plane as far back as 2002, where the Frenchmen turns up for a flight from Florida to the Bahamas, according to Bloomberg.
Brunel also visited Epstein in jail while he was serving a 13-month sentence in Florida for procuring an underage girl for prostitution, according to jail logs, Bloomberg reported.
He allegedly held models in Epstein’s Manhattan apartments, according to a sworn deposition by a former bookkeeper, Bloomberg reported.