Paris — A French formerfor the late financier and convicted sex offender was detained by French police Wednesday at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport as he attempted to leave the country. Prosecution sources confirm to CBS News that Jean-Luc Brunel is now being questioned by Paris police and could face a range of sex charges.
Brunel faces possible charges of rape and sexual assault, including of minors, some under the age of 15; sexual harassment and sex trafficking of minors.
French policesince an investigation was opened in August last year. A call for witnesses in September 2019 saw several former models come forward with details of alleged attacks spanning three decades.
Brunel was once a close friend of Epstein, the billionaire financier who was found dead in his jail cell in New York in August 2019 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking. His death was ruled an "apparent suicide."
At least one of Epstein's accusers said Brunel used his position in the modeling world to procure women and underage girls for the billionaire.
Brunel and, Epstein's former girlfriend and daughter of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, are alleged to have helped the financier find underage girls. Both have denied the allegations. Maxwell is currently in jail in New York awaiting trial.
Among the women who came forward to allege assault by Brunel in France was a Canadian former model. Speaking exclusively to CBS News last year, she said Brunel spiked her drink and raped her in his Paris apartment in 1987.
"I'm crying tears of joy," the Canadian, who preferred not to be named, told CBS News after learning of Brunel's arrest. "I'm still crying – it has brought it all back again, but they are tears of joy. I hope this time justice will be done – I hope he doesn't get away with it."
Her case, like those of several other women who came forward, will not go to trial because the statute of limitations on bringing rape charges in France is 20 years. But she said she hopes investigators will have enough evidence to build a case against him.
"I'm just very happy — I feel that finally someone is listening to us," she said.
On a night out clubbing in 1987, she says Brunel, whom she knew from her modeling work, asked her to accompany him to his apartment to pick something up, which she did.
Once there, "he came over and said, 'do you want a drink?' and I was like, 'Sure, why not?' And then I don't remember anything. He had drugged my drink.
"The next thing I remember is waking up in his bed. He was beside me, and he was sleeping and naked, and I was wondering how I got there. And I remember sliding out of the bed and doing everything to just not wake him up."
Panicked and unable to find the door out of the apartment, she called a friend to ask him to come get her.
"I'll jump from the window and you catch me," she told him, even though the apartment was four floors up. "Luckily he was there to calm me down and everything, 'cause I would have jumped," she said.
She said she felt too ashamed to go to the police at the time. When the Epstein case made the headlines, she saw Brunel's name associated with him and decided it was time to come forward. At least eight other alleged victims did, too.
Another woman who went to the police last year was Thysia Huisman, a Dutch former model, who told officers that Brunel drugged and raped her in 1991 when she was 18.
"It's great he has been arrested; it's quite overwhelming," she told CBS News on Friday. "To be honest, I didn't expect it anymore."
The police contacted her after Brunel's arrest and said they were questioning him. Huisman wrote a book about her modeling career in Paris, and the assault, called "Close-Up," which came out in the Netherlands in November.
Brunel has always denied any wrongdoing. He disappeared shortly after Epstein's arrest last year but said that he wanted to answer the accusations against him.
He did not, however, hand himself over to police, and this is the first chance they have had to question him on the allegations.