Prosecutors said Saturday that French model agent Jean-Luc Brunel, a close associate of disgraced US billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, was found dead in his Paris prison cell, echoing his friend’s jail suicide.
Epstein, who was arrested in July 2019 on charges of trafficking underage girls for sex, was found hanged in his New York jail cell the following month while awaiting trial for sexual assaults on underage women.
Brunel, his former associate in his mid-70s, had been charged with raping minors and had been imprisoned since December 2020.
He was briefly released in late 2021, but was later re-incarcerated following a Paris court of appeals ruling.
Brunel was discovered dead overnight Friday to Saturday, according to a source close to the investigation in the Prison de la Sante. Paris prosecutors later confirmed he had died.
The source said he had been found hanged, but this was not confirmed by prosecutors.
Police are now investigating the cause of death, added the source, asking not to be named.
Brunel’s death means his case is closed, unless other suspects are implicated in the same case in the future.
– ‘Leaving behind secrets’ –
Brunel had denied the charges. He was first detained in December 2020 at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
His lawyers, Mathias Chichportich, Marianne Abgrall and Christophe Ingrain, said his apparent suicide was “not guided by guilt but a profound sense of injustice”.
“His tragedy is that of a 75-year-old man crushed by a media-judicial system,” they said in a statement.
“Brunel had always maintained his innocence and had intensified his efforts to prove it.”
Allegations from women who say they were abused in France in the Epstein case prompted French prosecutors to open their own investigation.
That probe focused on Brunel, who was accused in US court documents of rape and of procuring young girls for his friend.
Anne-Claire Le Jeune, lawyer for the plaintiffs, expressed “frustration and bitterness over not being able to obtain justice, just as for the victims of Epstein”.
“It took so much courage to be able to speak up, to be heard by the police and the investigating judges. It’s quite terrible for the victims”, she said.
She added that the victims had the feeling Brunel was “leaving behind a number of secrets”.