Whatever Happened to Ghislaine Maxwell’s Plan to Save the Oceans?


In 2014, Ghislaine Maxwell spoke at a Council on Foreign Relations event in Washington, D.C. She was there in her capacity as the founder of the TerraMar Project, an oceanic conservation group she started in 2012, according to a C.F.R. spokeswoman.

The C.F.R. is one of the world’s most prestigious nonprofit think tanks. Among its officers and directors then were David Rockefeller, one of the modern era’s most revered philanthropists; Colin Powell; and Robert Rubin, the secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton.

The TerraMar Project was an organization with an opaque website and a founder who happened to be the ex-girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein, the mysterious money manager who — in addition to being one of the C.F.R.’s “Chairman’s Circle” donors for at least six years — had pleaded guilty in 2008 to state charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor.

Mr. Epstein spent the next year in county jail, becoming a symbol of the superrich getting away with crimes that seemed likely to send ordinary people to prison for far longer.

Ms. Maxwell herself would be a party to confidential settlements with at least two other people who said that they were victims of Mr. Epstein and that Ms. Maxwell was responsible for recruiting them.

She has never been charged with any crime, and continues to deny wrongdoing. (Attempts to reach her were not successful.) Even before these lawsuits and the C.F.R. talk, her involvement in Mr. Epstein’s operation was cited frequently in the press.

“We were unaware of the allegations against Ms. Maxwell at the time of the event,” the C.F.R. spokeswoman wrote in an email. The spokeswoman added that Mr. Epstein’s membership was revoked in 2009, because he did not pay his membership dues while in jail.

Mr. Epstein, after facing new charges of sex trafficking this year, died in jail on Aug. 10 from what officials said was suicide. And the TerraMar Project has been disbanded, though, according to The New York Post, an F.B.I. probe of it is underway. In the wake of Mr. Epstein’s death, attention now turns to the woman often accused of being his enabler, the striving socialite daughter of a disgraced billionaire.

According to tax filings from 2013 to 2017, the organization gave out no money in grants. A representative for the TerraMar Project said in a statement that the work of the organization included helping organize the March for the Ocean in Washington, a campaign to reduce the number of littered cigarette butts and publication of The Daily Catch, an oceanic conservation newsletter. The TerraMar Project also obtained a partnership with the luxury bedding company Yves Delorme on a collection of “water-inspired” sheets, pillowcases and comforters.

Ms. Maxwell had negligible experience as an environmental activist. Her preferred method of oceangoing was aboard a luxury yacht, which, according to Mr. Mason, was for her the pre-eminent symbol of “status and freedom.” It was through boating that she drew her inspiration for the foundation.

She spent much of her time in the late 1980s on the Lady Ghislaine, a nearly 200-foot boat owned by her father, the media mogul Robert Maxwell. It had a Jacuzzi, a sauna, a gym and private disco. Deep in debt, he bilked the pensions of thousands of his employees, and his body was discovered in the ocean off the Canary Islands, where he had taken the Lady Ghislaine in 1991.

The death was ruled an accident. The family reportedly lost almost everything, including the boat.

Ms. Maxwell, then living in New York, became known for her romantic relationship with Mr. Epstein, who was an all-purpose adviser for the billionaire Leslie Wexner. (Mr. Wexner said in a letter to the Wexner Foundation that, in 2007, he discovered misappropriation of his funds by Mr. Epstein.)

One of Mr. Epstein’s duties was handling contracts for the Limitless, a mammoth yacht bought by Mr. Wexner and designed by Bannenberg & Rowell. Ms. Maxwell was eager to get aboard when it was finished but never did, according to Craig Tafoya, its former captain.

“Ghislaine would always call me and say, ‘I’m coming down to use the boat with some friends. I would always tell her, ‘I have to call the owner. I can’t just let you on the boat.’ And she would never show up,” said Mr. Tafoya, who took this to mean that she never got permission. “She did that half a dozen times. And in talking to a guy who worked for Bannenberg, he said, ‘she does that all the time. She does it when she’s in front of all her girlfriends and wants to brag that she can go use someone’s yacht.’”

Ted Waitt is the tech billionaire co-founder of Gateway, Inc. who became Ms. Maxwell’s boyfriend after she broke up with Mr. Epstein.



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