Jeffrey Epstein charged with sex trafficking minors

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Wealthy US financier and friend of the powerful Jeffrey Epstein has appeared in a New York court charged with running “a vast network” of underage girls for sex.

Appearing in dark-blue jail clothing on Monday, Epstein pleaded not guilty.

The indictment alleges he enticed minors to visit his Manhattan and Florida mansions between 2002 and 2005.

According to the charges, the girls, some as young as 14, were given hundreds of dollars for sex acts.

He faces one count of sex trafficking and one of sex trafficking conspiracy.

The 66-year-old hedge fund manager was arrested on Saturday at Teterboro Airport after arriving from France on his private jet.

Epstein will remain in jail until his bail hearing on 11 July.

What does the charge sheet say?

The indictment alleges Epstein knew his victims were under 18. Often they would be invited to carry out a massage nude before being subjected to sexual abuse, it says.

The accused “also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused”, the document alleges.

He conspired with others “including employees and associates” who helped schedule encounters at his Manhattan mansion and Palm Beach residence, it is alleged.

Epstein has maintained that he believed the girls were at least 18 and that the encounters were consensual.

At a news conference, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, said a police raid on Epstein’s Manhattan property resulted in the seizure of what appeared to be photos of naked girls.

He said that Epstein presented a flight risk and he would recommend the defendant remain in custody pending trial. Mr Berman appealed to anyone who may have been a victim or have information to come forward.

“The alleged behaviour shocks the conscience,” he said. “And while the alleged conduct is from a number of years ago it is still profoundly important to the many alleged victims. They deserve their day in court.”

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