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French NGO says has 10 witnesses of Epstein-linked abuse

Innocence en Danger, which defends the rights of minors against violence and sexual abuse, said it would pass on the witness statements to the judicial authorities.

In this file photo taken on 8 July 2019, A protest group called 'Hot Mess' hold up signs of Jeffrey Epstein in front of the Federal courthouse in New York City. Picture: AFP

PARIS - A French charity said Thursday it has received 10 witness statements after launching an appeal for testimony about sex crimes committed against minors in France linked to the late convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Innocence en Danger (Innocence in Danger), which defends the rights of minors against violence and sexual abuse, said it would pass on the witness statements to the judicial authorities.

US billionaire Epstein committed suicide in jail earlier this month while facing charges of sexually trafficking minors. He was linked to a string of sordid abuses involving underage girls at both his Palm Beach home and on his private island in the Caribbean.

But there have also been calls for a French enquiry into any violence committed in France since Epstein was known to entertain guests at a sumptuous apartment on Avenue Foch near the Champs-Elysees.

"We received 10 witness statements," the head of Innocence en Danger, Homayra Sellier, told AFP, adding that they came from people saying they were either victims of abuse or witnessed it.

Those who said they were victims were not all French but the alleged violations "took place on French territory and probably at the hands of French people," she said.

She said the organisation's lawyers would draw up legal complaints based on these statements and pass them on to both Paris prosectors and the American legal authorities.

Innocence en Danger had on 12 August published an open letter urging Paris's top prosecutor Remy Heitz to open a preliminary probe into the Epstein case, saying that many of Epstein's victims had French nationality.

Paris prosecutors responded that a preliminary analysis was under way to determine whether a French investigation should be opened.

One of Epstein's close friends and allies was the formerly powerful French modelling tycoon Jean-Luc Brunel, who was accused in court documents of procuring young girls for Epstein, as well as of rape.

He has denied the accusations in the past.

The model scout, an influential figure in the industry, has always been a low-profile figure and like some other former Epstein allies has not spoken publicly since the financier was charged in early July.

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