A French investigation into Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged sex network has been criticized for its slow progress by women who say an associate of the disgraced financier raped and sexually assaulted them in France, claims that have raised questions over whether their allegations are again being "swept under the rug."
The women’s concerns stem from investigators’ apparent limited efforts in tracking down other witnesses against Jean-Luc Brunel, a mysterious French modeling agent who allegedly procured women, some of them minors, for sex with Epstein and others.
They said police have only issued one public appeal urging witnesses to come forward. The message, posted on Sept. 11 to Twitter and Facebook and only in French, might not have reached people who don’t belong to those social networks or follow the police feeds, according to the women.
“I’m disappointed,” Thysia Huisman told The Associated Press. “There must be more victims, but you have to encourage them to come forward.”
Huisman, a former model who is among a dozen people who have so far given evidence for the probe, told police she was drugged and raped in 1991 at age 18 by Brunel, who allegedly lured women with promises of modeling work.
Anne-Claire Le Jeune, a lawyer for Huisman and two other women, said she believes police may not have been given all the tools they need to chase the investigation.
“As time passes, I realize that the means really aren’t being deployed,” Le Jeune said. “There is a blockage. There is something dysfunctional.”
The police investigation was launched in August after Epstein, who maintained a residence in Paris, died by suicide in a New York prison while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, accused Brunel of operating in Epstein's alleged sex ring.
Brunel’s lawyer, Corinne Dreyfus-Schmidt, did not respond to the AP’s emailed request for comment. She has previously said that her client "firmly contests accusations in the press" and that he is prepared to talk with investigators. He has yet to be questioned.
So far, French police have questioned eight alleged victims of rape and other abuse, and four other people who say they were witnesses. More hearings are scheduled, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office, which is overseeing the probe.
“Investigations are carried out every day in the framework of this inquiry,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement to The AP.
Courtney Powell Soerensen, another former model who alleges that Brunel tried to pressure her into sex and assaulted her in 1988 when she was starting her career in Paris as a 19-year-old, called the investigation efforts thus far “absolutely absurd.”
“They need to put the calls out to Eastern Europe and South America, disadvantaged places, because that’s where they were pulling the girls,” she told The AP, adding that such claims were ignored then and are again being “swept under the rug."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.