Robert Maxwell's mysterious death and claims Jeffrey Epstein helped hide stolen millions

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Ghislaine Maxwell's family was embroiled in scandal way before her crimes with Jeffrey Epstein were ever exposed.

The socialite, who became close friends with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, was convicted of grooming and child sex trafficking in December last year and faces 65 years in prison.

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But the sickening downfall of Ghislaine isn't the first time the Maxwell family has been brought into disrepute.

Eye-opening new BBC documentary series, House of Maxwell, charts the story of one of the most extraordinary family sagas the world has ever seen, told using intimate first-hand accounts and exclusive sources of archive.

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The first episode focuses on media tycoon Robert Maxwell, whose death in the most mysterious of circumstances after falling off his yacht triggered the collapse of his publishing empire, which had included The Mirror.

While it was previously believed Maxwell died before Ghislaine met Epstein, it is now being claimed in the BBC series that the paedophile was actually employed by the disgraced media mogul to hide the hundreds of millions he stole.

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A larger-than-life and celebrated figure, Maxwell soon went from hero to villain as it was found that he had looted millions from the Mirror pension fund to prop up his debt-ridden business empire.

Robert Maxwell's mysterious death and claims Jeffrey Epstein helped hide stolen millions

Robert Maxwell at a party on his yacht with daughter Ghislaine and wife Elisabeth in 1990 ( Image: Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

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His treachery condemned many of his workers to poverty and left his newspapers on the verge of collapse.

It is now being claimed that Maxwell met Epstein before his death through his daughter and may have employed the paedophile's services.

The previously unknown connection could also explain how Epstein made his fortune, something which has been shrouded in mystery for a very long time.

Speaking in tonight's documentary, a former friend of Ghislaine, Vassi Chamberlain, says: “I was in the City and I had some friends who worked on Wall Street during that time and they heard that Jeffrey Epstein and Robert Maxwell had entered into an agreement before Robert Maxwell's death, whereby certain funds had been siphoned off.

“That is what Jeffrey Epstein was doing at the time, he was helping very rich people park their money offshore, to avoid tax.”

Colin Barr, the executive producer of the series, adds: £I think we now know for a fact that Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein knew one another before Maxwell died, I think there is no question about that.”

The first episode of House of Maxwell focuses on Robert's rise to power after emerging from poverty.

Robert Maxwell's mysterious death and claims Jeffrey Epstein helped hide stolen millions

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell together in 2005 ( Image: Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Born in Czechoslovakia, the Jewish youngster escaped persecution from the Nazis by fleeing to France during the Second World War.

Having lost many of his family in the Holocaust, Robert joined the Czechoslovak army and was decorated after active service in the British Army.

After the war was over, Robert stepped into the world of publishing and built up Pergamon Press into a booming publishing house before spending six years as a Labour MP in the 60s.

Turning back to focus on his business, he successfully bought several major publishing houses, including Mirror Group Newspapers, but had to sell some of them in 1989 to cover his debts.

Robert led a lavish life, often flying by helicopter or sailing in his luxury yacht, but was never far from controversy and faced unproven accusations of being a Russian spy and informant for Israeli intelligence service.

But his biggest scandal would happen after his body was found floating in the Atlantic Ocean in November 1991.

Having last been seen walking around his yacht in the early hours, the media mogul was reported missing by his crew hours before his naked body was pulled from the sea close to Spain's Canary Islands.

Robert Maxwell's mysterious death and claims Jeffrey Epstein helped hide stolen millions

Robert Maxwell pictured near his superyacht before his death

With the Spanish authorities ruling out foul play and the family insisting he would never take his own life, conspiracy theories abound to this day.

While pathologists were unable to determine his cause of death, some suggested that the 22-stone man had tripped while urinating overboard – which he often did naked.

Previously unseen footage in House of Maxwell shows Robert standing on the deck of superyacht Lady Ghislaine, named after his favourite daughter, and also stripped off in the sea with the ship's buoyancy ring around his torso.

Years later, his sons Kevin and Ian Maxwell told The Sunday Times, they did not believe their father took his own life and don't think he was murdered.

“If I say anything about it, I think it is highly unlikely that he would have taken his own life, it wasn't in his makeup or his mentality,” Kevin explained.

“I don't think any murder conspiracy stands up, so for me, it is an unexplained accident and I'm content to live with that.”

Executive producer Colin Barr said despite the extensive research for the three films, it is still unknown if Maxwell killed himself or fell in by accident.

Robert Maxwell's mysterious death and claims Jeffrey Epstein helped hide stolen millions

Ghislaine holding a framed photograph of her late father ( Image: Getty Images)

Robert Maxwell's mysterious death and claims Jeffrey Epstein helped hide stolen millions

Financial issues were brought to light following his death ( Image: Mirrorpix)

He told Radio Times: “We have footage from the yacht that week where he looks relaxed, but who knows? He had a bottomless capacity for convincing himself his own lies were true and by then was extremely paranoid, ever more isolated as the financial noose tightened

“Maxwell could have been a heroic figure, coming from poverty to succeed in a country as class-ridden as Britain. Instead his path curdled into hubris, vanity and moral corruption, which was then passed down the line to his family, including Ghislaine. It's hard to imagine a more dramatic rise or disastrous fall.”

In the days after his death, it emerged that Robert had stolen over £440million from the Mirror Group pension fund in a bid to inflate the company's share price and keep his businesses afloat.

The documentary lays bare the extent of Maxwell's paranoia in the months leading up to his death – as he bugged the offices of his global media empire and his lavish home in Oxfordshire.

In the audio recordings, his senior staff are frustrated at being unable to contact Maxwell for three days while he was sailing off the Canary Islands.

One key executives says: “I'm f***ed if I know what he’'s done. He's gone away on his boat – and he said to me he was going to talk to them. And I'm still trying to track this bloody money down.”

Another is heard saying: “It's going to blow up and head in the sand isn't going to help. F***'s sake.”

Robert Maxwell's mysterious death and claims Jeffrey Epstein helped hide stolen millions

Maxwell was a media mogul ( Image: Daily Mirror)

For months, senior Mirror Group employees had secretly suspected there were holes in the company's finances, including in staff's pension fund.

His global media empire was found to be around £2billion in debt and after he died, senior staff struggled to make sense of his finances.

One tells another they have ­discovered they are “short” by £6.8m. “On top of the 100 bloody million? This is only the tip of the iceberg,” comes the incredulous response.

In exchanges voiced by actors to protect identities, one exec says: “Where the hell has all the money gone?”

He is assured that a “big chunk” is on the way back. The man replies: “If it doesn’t, there’s going to be the most God almighty public scandal.” Another staff member concludes: “We're f***ed.”

House of Maxwell will also see victims of evil Epstein bravely speak about their harrowing ordeals.

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