Prosecutors said, on Saturday, that a prominent French modeling agent who was a close aide to disgraced American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, was found dead in his prison cell in Paris.
Epstein, who was arrested in New York in July 2019 for trafficking underage girls for sex, was found hanged in his New York cell the following month while awaiting trial for abuses against girls at his Palm Beach home and on his private island in the Caribbean.
His ex-partner Jean-Luc Brunel, in his mid-70s, had been accused of raping minors and imprisoned since December 2020.
He was released briefly in late 2021, but was subsequently remanded in custody under the ruling of an appeals court in Paris.
A source close to the investigation told AFP that he was found dead on Friday and Saturday nights. Paris prosecutors later confirmed that he had died.
The source said that he was found hanged, but the prosecution did not confirm this.
The source, who asked not to be named, added that the police are now investigating the cause of death. Brunel’s death means his case is now closed, unless other suspects are involved in the same case in the future.
Brunel denied the charges. He was first arrested in December 2020 at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
“His tragedy is that of a 75-year-old man who has been crushed by a media justice system, and who will now have time to ask questions about him,” his lawyers, Matjas تشيechbortic, Marian Abgrall and Christoph Ingren said in a statement.
“Jean-Luc Brunel always maintained his innocence and intensified his efforts to prove it,” she added, adding that his apparent suicide “was not motivated by guilt but by a deep sense of injustice.”
Allegations of women who said they were mistreated in France in the Epstein case have prompted French prosecutors to open an investigation of their own.
This investigation focused on Brunel, who was accused in US court documents of rape and procuring young girls for his friend.
Ann Claire Le John, the plaintiffs’ attorney, expressed “frustration and bitterness at not being able to do justice, as Epstein’s victims.”
“It took a lot of courage to speak up, to have your voice heard by the police and investigative judges. It is so terrible for the victims,” she said.
She added that the victims “have a feeling that he (Brunel) is leaving behind a number of secrets.”
Prince Settlement Brunel started his career as a model and in 1978 co-founded the prestigious Karin Models agency.
He then moved to the United States where he co-founded the Miami-based agency MC2.
In US court documents, Virginia Roberts Joffrey, a lead plaintiff against Epstein, accused him of using her as a “sex slave” and said she was forced to have sex with well-known politicians and businessmen, including Brunel.
It also alleged that Brunel would bring girls as young as 12 to the United States and pass them on to friends, including Epstein.
His death comes days after Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, settled Joffrey’s lawsuit, sparing him the public humiliation of a trial.
Joffrey said she had sex with Andrew when she was 17 and was a minor under US law, after meeting him through Epstein.
No criminal charges have been brought against the 61-year-old prince and he has denied the allegations.
In December, socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, a friend of Epstein and Prince Andrew, was indicted in the US for recruiting young girls and preparing them for sexual assault by Epstein.