The 74-year-old’s whereabouts are still unknown, despite being deemed a critical accomplice within Epstein’s web.
In the weeks following Epstein’s death last August, Brunel’s name came to light as an alleged collaborator in Epstein’s supply of underage girls. French investigators were spurred to open a case against him in August – looking at his ties to Epstein, along with accusations of rape and assault.
But a year on, and little progress has seemingly been made.
Brunel’s name surfaced in the recent trove of unsealed court documents as one of the many men involved in sexual acts with underage girls at Epstein’s direction. This comes on the heels of the court documents unsealed last year from 2015, which included a series of alarming telephone messages from Brunel to Epstein, one in which the man appeared to have been offering Epstein an underage girl who could “teach him Russian.”
And for some former models now going public with their claims, Brunel’s name is more than a mere passing reference – it comes with a pang of memories.
Thysia Huisman, now 47, told Fox News that she was barely 18 years old in the fall of 1991 when her modeling agent in the Netherlands sent her to a lavish apartment building in central Paris, belonging to Brunel, who promised her stardom under his tutelage as the founder of Karin Models.
Yet almost immediately, the young model said she was overcome with discomfort.
“I asked him (Brunel), which was my bedroom and he said ‘oh, you sleep in my bed.’ I thought he was joking, but in the end, I had to sleep on the floor of another girl’s room. Every day he kept saying we must have sex, there was a lot of harassment,” Huisman told Fox News. “Every day, I kept telling myself to leave, it didn’t feel right, and I still hate myself that I didn’t leave.”
She also noted that she and the other young models were made to go to the clubs with Brunel and a bevy of his older, businessman-type friends. On what turned out to be her last night at the Brunel dwellings, Huisman remembers having one or two drinks at a club and suddenly being overcome with blurred vision and extreme dizziness.
“From there, it is pretty fragmented. I remember him taking me to his room, and I remember trying to get away. He ripped my blouse, and I blacked out,” Huisman alleged. “I woke up naked, disorientated, bruises on my thighs. I knew I had been raped.”
Terrified, Huisman said that she grabbed what few belongings she had brought and fled.
Zoe Brock, a 17-year-old model, was also sent by an Australian agency to Brunel’s home in Paris for work in the early 1990s and told that as a minor, it was the “safest” place for her to stay.
Neither model was informed that years earlier, Brunel was already the subject of a 1988 “60 Minutes” expose in which several young models accused him of sexual misconduct, including groping, drugging women’s drinks, and rape. No investigation was opened, and it was business-as-usual in the industry.
Brock told Fox News that she, too, was immediately subject to Brunel’s unwanted advances, and she later even discovered a spyhole built into the bathroom. But when it became clear to Brunel that she was not going to sleep with him despite the persistence, Brock recalled, she was kicked out. She believes Brunel has high-level government connections – hence why his alleged behavior has gone unchallenged for decades.
While Huisman and Brock both understand that the statute of limitations has since passed, they are urging other alleged Brunel victims to come forward. Huisman still filed a police report against the agent last year. French authorities have also encouraged potential victims or witnesses with ties to Epstein to come forward to aid their investigation.
Anne-Claire Le Jeune, a Paris-based attorney representing four alleged victims against Brunel – including Huisman – told Fox News that while three of the cases have lapsed statute of limitations, there is a harassment case from four years ago she hopes will open the path to justice for all.
“What we are trying to do is locate more victims, and we absolutely need international cooperation for this,” Le Jeune stressed. “American victims can contact me.”
Huisman said she knows of 11 other women who have gone to officials with accusations against Brunel.
Brunel’s accusers claim that for decades he has gotten away with destroying young lives, despite his proclamations that he had launched the careers of everyone from Christy Turlington and Milla Jovovich to Jerry Hall and Monica Bellucci as a prominent scout dating back to the 1970s.
In addition to the 60 Minutes segment, allegations against Brunel were also spelled out in a 1995 book by Michael Gross titled “Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women.” He was also a key figure in the 2005 criminal probe against Epstein, ignited by the Palm Beach Police Department. An Ian Halperin book almost a decade later cast a similar strobe on the agent’s alleged actions.
The home offices for the Paris agency he founded, Karin Models, were raided last September and his New York and Miami affiliates, MC2 Model Management, shut up shop soon after Epstein’s death, and he faded from the party circuit. But for now, Brunel has not yet been charged or brought in to face a court of law.
An attorney for Brunel, Corinne Dreyfus-Schmidt, said last year that her client “firmly contests accusations in the press” and “will reserve his statements for justice officials.” She declined further comment to Fox News this week, noting that nothing further has happened with the French Justice Department as of yet.
While Brunel’s whereabouts have been a mystery, filmmaker and journalist Matan Uziel told Fox News that based on cell phone tracking evidence and other clues as recently as July, he is still inside France, contradicting reports that he escaped to South America.
“Maybe he is being protected, but we know he is in France. We traced him in two different places and gave over that information,” Uziel told Fox News.
Epstein owned a luxurious apartment on Avenue Foch in Paris — as did Brunel. Flight logs showed that Brunel traveled on Epstein’s private planes at least 25 times between 1998 and 2005. Visitor logs showed the model manager also visited his friend some 67 times while Epstein was serving a brief sentence in a Florida county jail as part of a controversial 2008 plea deal over charges of soliciting a minor.
Brunel is also reported to have lived for a period at Epstein’s Manhattan apartment, according to testimony from a former agency bookkeeper who vowed that in exchange for funding the agency, her ex-boss was “getting the girls.”
In 2005, Brunel’s Karin Models agency was re-branded MC2 Model Management, billing itself as a “boutique agency” with an alleged $1 million investment from Epstein. Around that same time, the FBI opened an investigation into Epstein’s predatory behaviors.
According to 2011 court filings based on accusers’ testimonies, Brunel was one of Epstein’s “closest pals,” and he left disturbing voice messages for the repudiated financier regarding young girls.
“Epstein and Brunel brought underage girls from all over the world, promising them modeling contracts,” the suit claimed. “Epstein and Brunel would then obtain a visa for these girls; they would charge the underage girls rent, presumably to live as underage prostitutes in the condos.”
And in court filings submitted in one of her defamation cases, Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre claimed that she had sex with Brunel multiple times at Epstein’s orders and that Epstein told her he slept with “over 1,000 Brunel girls.”
But the relationship between the agent and the convicted sex offender ruptured in the years after. In January 2015, Brunel and MC2 sued for damages that he claimed resulted from “notoriety and bad publicity generated by criminal charges that had been brought against Epstein involving allegations of unlawful sexual contact with a minor.” Brunel asserted that the “false stories” linking him to Epstein caused a “tremendous loss of business.” The case was thrown out.
And while Brunel is accused in U.S. court documents of rape and procuring young women for Epstein, it is unclear if he is wanted by the U.S. government. The FBI declined to comment. French authorities also declined to speak on the matter. France does have an extradition treaty with the United States, and so far Maxwell is the only person to have been charged in connection with Epstein.
But the likes of Huisman refuse to give up.
“He took something from me, and you can never get that back. It has had a huge impact on my life,” she added. “At the time, I was too scared to go to the police. I just wanted to get out of Paris, and so I kept it to myself. But I will never forget, and I am grateful that I can now start to talk about it.”