Jean-Luc Brunel, a longtime French modeling agent who was detained in December 2020 as part of an inquiry into allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, was found dead in his cell on Saturday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
The investigation, opened in August 2019, was a preliminary inquiry into whether late financier and convicted American sex offender Jeffrey Epstein had committed sex crimes on French territory or against French victims.
Brunel, 76, was later charged with sexual harassment and rape of minors, and has been accused of procuring hundreds of girls for Epstein.
Brunel founded a U.S. modeling management company with Epstein but denied any wrongdoing related to his association with him.
Brunel was found hanged in his cell in the Sante prison in Paris at around 1 a.m. on Saturday, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said.
Authorities have launched an investigation into the death, the spokesperson said.
Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive in his jail cell in New York City in August 2019 and soon declared dead.
The cause of death was ruled a suicide by the city’s medical examiner’s office.
Epstein was awaiting trial on charges that he sex trafficked minor girls.
Epstein spent time in prison after pleading guilty to procuring a minor for prostitution in 2008 but after his release continued to spend time with some of the world’s elites, including Prince Andrew and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Epstein’s onetime girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, is the only other associate to be detained on charges.
Maxwell, 60, in late 2021 was found guilty by a jury on five sex trafficking charges, including conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Prosecutors said Maxwell helped recruit young girls for Epstein to abuse, and that she sometimes abused them herself.
Maxwell’s brother, Ian, told the New York Post that Brunel’s death was shocking. He said he fears for his sister’s safety. She is locked up at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal prison in New York’s Brooklyn borough.
A civil case against Prince Andrew, meanwhile, was settled for an undisclosed sum, according to court filings in federal court in New York on Feb. 15.
Virginia Giuffre, who has alleged she was abused by Prince Andrew, Epstein, and Maxwell, sued the royal in 2021.
In court documents, representatives for Prince Andrew said he “regrets his association with Epstein, and commends the bravery of Ms. Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others.”
“He pledges to demonstrate his regret for his association with Epstein by supporting the fight against the evils of sex trafficking, and by supporting its victims,” the document stated.
The settlement came after Prince Andrew’s attempt to have the suit thrown out was rejected.
Reuters contributed to this report.