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French prosecutors close rape probe into top model agency boss

French investigators have closed an investigation into possible rape and sexual assault by European model agency boss Gerald Marie who was accused of a string of offences, legal sources said Tuesday. 

The Paris prosecutors’ office concluded that the alleged crimes in the 1980s and 1990s took place too long ago to be prosecuted under French law which sets time limits for offences to be tried in court. 

“The case was closed on February 13 because of the statute of limitations for public action,” the justice ministry said in a statement. 

In 2020, former BBC investigative reporter Lisa Brinkworth became the first woman to file a complaint against Marie, an influential figure in the European modelling business who was once married to the supermodel Linda Evangelista.

Three former models also came forward with their own allegations, including one who said she was a minor when Marie started abusing her.

A lawyer for the businessman, Celine Bekerman, said her client “welcomed the closing of this case. The justice system has finally triumphed despite the outrageous media campaign that Gerald Marie has suffered for two years.”

“With this decision, it is now established that Gerald Marie is and will remain innocent.”

Brinkworth told AFP that she would launch an appeal against the decision and would continue a civil complaint against Marie along with other women.

“My case remains open as our lawyers have submitted a new complaint to the investigative judge, and hope that the judge will now consider that in my case the statute of limitations must be interrupted,” she said.

Brinkworth claims that in 1998, while posing as a model during an undercover investigation for a documentary, Marie sexually assaulted her in a Milan nightclub.

But even though she managed to film much of the alleged incident, she says she was prevented from coming forward by an agreement between the BBC and Elite in 2001 following a defamation suit.

“The BBC continues to withhold vital information,” Brinkworth added. “If it had been provided to our lawyers over the course of the last three years we have been requesting it, we might have seen a different outcome today.”

Another senior French figure in the fashion business was also caught up in the wave of sexual assault allegations which followed the #MeToo movement in 2017.

Model agent Luc Brunel, an associate of paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein, was charged with the rape of minors and imprisoned in December 2020. 

Like Epstein, he killed himself while behind bars, with his body found in his Paris prison cell in February last year.

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