If you’re curious how former socialite Ghislaine Maxwell could find herself accused of being Jeffrey Epstein’s madame — allegedly instrumental in his extensive sex trafficking web — look no further than her daddy issues.
“She wanted to be like her father,” journalist Vicky Ward told The Post, referring to media tycoon Robert Maxwell. “It’s critical in understanding why a man like Jeffrey Epstein would have been so extraordinarily compelling to her.”
Ward’s new three-part docuseries, “Chasing Ghislaine,” premiering Monday on Discovery+, explores the eerie parallels between Maxwell’s blind allegiance to her “ruthless” father and her unflinching devotion to convicted pedophile Epstein.
When former boyfriend Epstein once walked into his East Side office at the posh Villard Houses with a young woman and the two ducked into a separate room, Maxwell looked the other way.
“You really don’t have to put up with this,” a friend said to Maxwell afterwards, according to Ward.
Maxwell’s response? “Yes, I do. My father taught me you do whatever it takes to keep your man.”
Today, Maxwell, 59, stands accused in an eight-count indictment of procuring underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to 2004. She’s pleaded not guilty and has been locked up in a Brooklyn jail since her arrest in the summer of 2020. (Epstein died by apparent suicide in 2019 at age 66 inside the Metropolitan Correctional Facility. At the time, he was accused of sexually abusing dozens of young girls in his Upper East Side townhouse and waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, between 2002 and 2005.)
Opening statements in Maxwell’s high-profile NYC trial are scheduled to begin on Nov. 29.
Many of the socialite’s old pals are still in disbelief over her staggering fall from grace. “Many of Ghislaine’s British friends told me privately they’re stunned: Where had the clever, glittering, Oxford-educated woman they’d known gone?” Ward asks in the documentary.
Ghislaine was the youngest of nine children born to Betty and Robert Maxwell, a powerful UK media mogul and rumored Mossad spy who grew up in poverty in Czechoslovakia.
“The guy in many ways was a monster,” Robert Maxwell biographer Martin Dillon says in the documentary.
Maxwell was notorious for his ruthless bullying both in business and at home. Still, the charming, ebullient and educated Ghislaine was his favorite of all the children — and she idolized him in return. She was frequently seen by his side at events, his beleaguered wife nowhere in view.
“Ghislaine was his darling,” Dillon says. “A lot of girls love their fathers, even though they’re villains. And he was a villain.”
At age 22, she was given the title of director of her father’s soccer team Oxford United. She went on to work for his Mirror Group newspapers in various positions, heading to NYC to establish relationships when he bought the Daily News in 1991. The titan even named his 190-foot-long yacht “Lady Ghislaine.”
And so, when her father died yachting off the Canary Islands in 1991 at age 68 under mysterious circumstances, the 29-year-old Ghislaine was crushed.
Maxwell’s sudden death exposed extensive fraud, with the titan having looted hundreds of millions of dollars from his workers’ pension fund.
Though his death was ultimately ruled an accident, it triggered wild speculation, including that he was murdered by Israeli intelligence, according to the doc.
It was Ghislaine’s father who first introduced her to Epstein, a Coney Island-bred college dropout turned math teacher with similarly humble roots.
In the documentary, former arms dealer Ari Ben-Menashe claims that the elder Maxwell brought Epstein to Israel in the ’80s to blackmail people for the Jewish state.
Epstein’s M.O., according to Ben-Menashe, was taping targets having sex with young women. “Underage girls was his forte,” says Ben-Menashe.
“Did Jeffrey develop an interest in underage girls because of a blackmail campaign, or did he come up with the blackmail idea because of his own interests?” pondered Ward, who interviewed Epstein every day for six months in 2002 in advance of a Vanity Fair profile of the rising financier whose high-flying friends included Bill Clinton.
While it’s believed the elder Maxwell hoped his daughter and his in-the-shadows ally Epstein would hook up romantically, he wouldn’t live long enough to see it.
“I think Robert wanted him as a son-in-law,” says Syrian banker Amer Pacha in the documentary, adding that by the ’80s, Epstein had cultivated a reputation for money laundering.
After her father’s death, Maxwell attempted to restart her life in New York City, where her relationship with Epstein grew. The pair began dating and hitting the social circuit.
“It was clear she was besotted and in love with him, but it’s not at all clear to me or my sources that he was ever in love or besotted with Ghislaine,” Ward told The Post.
During the 2002 interview, Epstein told Ward, “I search for the best and brightest. Ghislaine is the best at what I need.”
In the documentary, former Maxwell friend Christopher Mason recalls a 1992 party that Maxwell gave for her mother at the former Iranian consulate in New York where he heard some disturbing rumors about Ghislaine “introducing [Epstein] to these young women.”
“She’s finding these girls that he’s flirting with and spending time with. And there was kind of disbelief,” he said. “If this is the guy she was dating, why the hell would she be finding young girls for him?”
Maxwell seemed to be slavish to every one of Epstein’s whims, fulfilling every menial task with the frenetic zeal of an over-anxious intern.
Mason recalls Epstein phoning Maxwell complaining of a cold, sending her into a tizzy to find the best chicken soup in NYC.
“Isn’t that weird? Why is this suddenly the most important thing on [her] agenda that must be accomplished immediately to satisfy and please Jeffrey Epstein?” said Mason.
Ward told The Post that Epstein would “humiliate” Maxwell, sometimes in public, just like her father with whom she was “obsessed.”
“You see how her definition and idea of the ultimate, most desirable male figure is this powerful, brutal, charming man,” Ward said.
And the security she got in return — that of great wealth — was in fact an illusion, Ward said.
“It’s a facade that isn’t necessarily based in reality. The trappings at the end of the day — the money, the plane, the boats, all of it — in each case, belong to the male. She can play lady of the manor, but that’s all it is — it’s a performance. [Her position] is completely dependent on currying favor with the man.
“Both men’s fortunes were based on mirages,” she added.
“She commanded a certain level of not respect, but almost fear,” an anonymous former assistant to Maxwell says in the doc. “Her job was described to me as — Jeffrey had all the money and none of the old-money connections. Ghislaine had the name and none of the money, so it was a very symbiotic relationship.
“But it seemed to me that Ghislaine was at Jeffrey’s beck and call. I think she needed him for more than just the money.”
The assistant said that Maxwell confided in her about the nature of their relationship. “They had clearly an open relationship and that they enjoyed the company of other women. But she seemed almost sad. It isn’t what she wanted … It appeared to me she wanted more than he was willing to give.”
There’s a shocking moment in the doc when audio is played from Ward’s 2002 interviews with the financier. As the reporter asks about Maxwell’s duties — getting art, setting up appointments — he responds, unprompted: “She doesn’t find girls for me, by the way.”
To which Ward answers: “I didn’t ask you that.”
Now, with Maxwell’s trial set to begin, the question remains: Will she continue to protect Epstein, just as she did with her dad?
“It doesn’t end with her — there are a lot of other people to blame,” says Jennifer Araoz, who accused Epstein of raping her when she was 15, in the doc. Araoz has separately sued Epstein’s estate and Maxwell, claiming that Maxwell “oversaw” the billionaire’s “process.”
Araoz’s lawyer, Eric Lerner, says in the doc: “One of the reasons the focus is on Ghislaine is because she has knowledge of that web. But it seems like there’s a lot of powerful men around Jeffrey Epstein who are part of this web who don’t appear to be part of any investigation right now.”
Whether Epstein’s many victims will see justice remains to be seen — they certainly won’t from the man himself.
As Ward puts it: “As Robert Maxwell’s victims felt cheated when he died in 1991, so too did Epstein’s — 30 years later.”