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New York: British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell said in a 2016 deposition about her friend the late financier Jeffrey Epstein that she never witnessed "inappropriate underage activities" by him, according to a newly released transcript that Maxwell had fought hard to keep secret.

Maxwell, 58, has pleaded not guilty to helping Epstein recruit and groom underage girls as young as 14 to engage in illegal sexual acts in the mid-1990s, and not guilty to perjury for having denied involvement in any such scheme when she gave her deposition under oath.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in New York in 2005.Credit:Getty Images

The April 2016 deposition, released on Thursday in the US (Friday AEDT), came from a now-settled civil defamation lawsuit against Maxwell by Virginia Giuffre, who has said Epstein kept her as a "sex slave" with Maxwell's assistance.

Maxwell was asked questions about her relationship with Epstein.

"I have never seen anybody have sexual intercourse with Jeffrey, ever," the deposition transcript says, and later: "I never saw any inappropriate underage activities with Jeffrey ever."

As for Giuffre, she said: "I never ever at any single time at any point ever at all participated in anything with Virginia and Jeffrey. And for the record, she is an absolute total liar."

US District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan had directed that a transcript of Maxwell’s testimony and other documents be released on Thursday morning in the US.

Lawyers for Maxwell, Epstein's former girlfriend and longtime associate, had argued she believed the deposition would remain confidential and that releasing it would violate her constitutional right against self-incrimination.

The lawyers had also argued that making the deposition public could imperil Maxwell's ability to get a fair trial, because jurors might hold its contents against her.

"If the unsealing order goes into effect, it will forever let the cat out of the bag," and "intimate, sensitive, and personal information" about Maxwell might "spread like wildfire across the internet," her lawyers said in August.

A trial is scheduled for July 2021.

Maxwell was arrested on July 2 in Bradford, New Hampshire, where authorities said she was hiding on a property she bought in December in an all-cash transaction with her identity shielded.

She is locked up in a Brooklyn jail after the judge in her criminal case called her an unacceptable flight risk.

Maxwell told lawyers that her job with Epstein included hiring assistants, architects, decorators, cooks, cleaners, gardeners, pool people and pilots as part of the upkeep of six homes.

"… a very small part of my job was from time to time to find adult professional massage therapists for Jeffrey," the transcript said.

Questioned by lawyers on whether she hired them, Maxwell replied: "When I meant hire, I didn't mean hire in the way you are doing it. What I say is that I went to spas and I met people and if they did home visits, Jeffrey would then, in fact, hire them. I'm not responsible for hiring someone. And they were not full-time, so it's not a correct characterisation."

Maxwell's deposition and other documents were cleared for release after the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan on Monday rejected her "meritless" arguments that her interests outweighed the presumption the public should see the materials.

Giuffre, who now lives in Australia and has been one of Epstein's most visible accusers, and the Miami Herald newspaper, which investigated Epstein's conduct and successful bid in 2007 to avoid federal sex trafficking charges, had sought the unsealing.

Epstein killed himself at age 66 in August 2019 at a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges announced the previous month.

He had previously escaped federal prosecution by pleading guilty in 2008 to Florida state prostitution charges, an agreement now widely considered too lenient.

Epstein once counted US President Donald Trump, former US President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew as friends. They have not been accused of criminal wrongdoing.

Giuffre has said she was trafficked by Epstein and forced to have sex with his friends, including the British prince when she was 17 years old.

In an interview broadcast in December 2019, Giuffre told BBC Panorama she had been brought to London in 2001 by Epstein and taken to meet the prince, one of three occasions when she claimed to have sex with Andrew.

Andrew has denied the allegations.

Support is available for those who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800; beyondblue 1300 224 636.

Reuters

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