Jean-Luc Brunel, a French modeling agent and close ally and alleged pimp to late sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, is in custody in Paris after attempting to board a flight to Dakar in Senegal. Paris prosecutors say he was taken into custody for rape, sexual assault against minors, sexual harassment, criminal conspiracy, and trafficking in human beings, according to Le Parisien newspaper.
Brunel, who has been accused in the U.S. of rape and procuring young girls for Epstein, has not been seen since Epstein’s death in a Manhattan prison in August 2019 but has been in France. Back in August, Paris Match reported that he was last seen in public in July 2019 at a party at the Paris Country Club—an upscale, members-only establishment outside the French capital. Brunel also reportedly planned to write a tell-all in the hopes of exonerating himself, but the project was abandoned. He and his lawyer even approached a crisis communications expert at one point, but the expert refused the contract.
Brunel’s name appeared more than 15 times on flight logs for Epstein’s private jet, and he visited Epstein close to 70 times when the financier was in jail in Florida for procuring an underage girl for prostitution.
In message logs from Epstein’s Palm Beach home—where Brunel was a frequent guest, according to Epstein employees—the French agent left cryptic messages that appeared to refer to young girls. In one note, Brunel reported that he “just did a good one—18 years” who told him “I love Jeffrey.” In another message to Epstein, Brunel stressed that “he has a teacher for you to teach how to speak Russian ... She is 2x8 years old not blonde. Lessons are free and you can have 1st today if you call.”
In August 2019, French prosecutors launched an inquiry into Brunel, who founded Karin Models and MC2 Model Management, which led to Wednesday’s arrest.
“It’s incredible. I didn’t expect it all,” Thysia Huisman, a Dutch former model who accused Brunel of drugging her and raping her when she was 18, told The Daily Beast. Huisman reported Brunel to the French police in September 2019 after Epstein’s arrest.
“Brunel raped me in 1991. He drugged me and raped me and I never came forward as I was ashamed,” she said. “ After Epstein’s arrest, I felt I had to come forward.”
After Epstein was arrested and Brunel became a person of interest, Huisman reported him even though the case was past the statute of limitations. “But I reported it in the hopes other women would come forward, and then 11 other women came forward but they were all past the statute of limitations.”
Frustrated, Huisman then went to the French authorities earlier this year. “I called the French police this year asking why isn’t anyone working on it and why is he walking round in Paris like nothing is happening, but the police said you have to be patient, we are trying to make a case that will stick,” she said, adding that she felt Brunel was tipped off and en route to Dakar because Senegal doesn’t have an extradition treaty with France.
“I had lost faith and I thought he’s being protected and nothing is going to happen but finally he’s facing charges and they are really serious charges,” she said. “I was crying but they were tears of joy. Someone has to pinch me, it’s really overwhelming. We have to see what happens next. If there is going to be a trial, I’m going to go there 100 percent and if they require my testimony of course I will give evidence. I didn’t come forward for nothing.”
Huismann’s book Close Up details meeting Brunel in Paris when she was 18 and Brunel invited her to Paris. “I met Epstein through Brunel,” she said. “I stayed at Brunel’s place in Paris and at night there were parties with older business friends of his and young, very young models and one night he gave me a drink and said we had to celebrate the start of my career in Paris.”
Fifteen minutes later, she said she knew something was wrong. “I started to feel really strange and woozy and nauseous and not myself and then he took me to his bedroom and I couldn’t even fight him and he raped me,” she told The Daily Beast. “I woke up the next day and the only thing I thought of was I had to escape his house and I took the first train out of Paris to Brussels and I never came back to Paris until last year when I went back to speak to the police and they took it really seriously.”
Huismann spent four and a half hours telling Paris police what happened. “I had to go into all the details and relive it, which was really heavy,” she said. “For all these years I had tried to forget, but in your memory, you have a lot of details especially from that night.”
Lisa Bloom, who represents Epstein victims, told The Daily Beast that “one of the seven Jeffrey Epstein sexual assault victims I represent has alleged in our litigation that Jean-Luc Brunel trafficked her to Epstein...This took place in 2009, after Epstein's criminal conviction. We are very pleased that at long last Mr. Brunel is being brought to justice.”
Brunel said through a lawyer last year that he would answer questions about his relationship with Epstein. His lawyers denied that he was “on the run” and that he denies all allegations of impropriety. The DOJ officially declined to comment on whether they were independently investigating Brunel in their ongoing probe of Epstein and his associates in the U.S.
Lawyer David Boies, whose firm has represented Epstein’s victims, noted, “Jeffrey Epstein did not act alone. Today’s arrest of Jean Luc Brunel is another important step in bringing to justice the men and women who participated in Epstein’s international sex trafficking ring. This could not have happened without the courage and commitment of Epstein’s survivors, and the dedication of prosecutors around the world.”
Brunel has also denied any business relationship with Epstein, who was allegedly the silent “E” in MC2 (referring to the theory of relativity). But Brunel did admit in court documents that the rich sex offender did extend him a $1 million line of credit to invest in a new business with Elite Models, registered at the address of Epstein’s investment firm in New York. The Department of Justice officially declined to comment on Brunel's arrest and its ongoing Epstein probe.
“The victims have long awaited the arrest of Jean-Luc Brunel,” said Anne-Claire Lejeune, a lawyer representing several of Brunel’s alleged victims. “They welcome this custody with relief and confidence in the legal consequences that will be given. Their word finally takes on a meaning.”
With reporting from Erin Zaleski, Pilar Melendez, and Spencer Ackerman.