Financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused girls as young as 12 on his private islands, the US Virgin Islands prosecutor has claimed.

Epstein, who died in prison in August 2019 while awaiting trial for abuse dating back to 2005, is alleged to have trafficked girls as recently as 2018.

The lawsuit against his estate says the girls were “lured and recruited” to his Caribbean home and forced into sex.

This is the first lawsuit filed against Epstein in the US Virgin Islands.

The suit seeks to seize part of his $577m (£442m) fortune and his two private islands, Little Saint James and Great Saint James.

The two islands are estimated to be worth $86m.

“Epstein clearly used the Virgin Islands and his residence in the US Virgin Islands at Little Saint James as a way to be able to conceal and to be able to expand his activity here,” US Virgin Islands prosecutor Denise N George says in the suit.

“Epstein and his associated trafficked underage girls to the Virgin Islands, held them captive, and sexually abused them, causing them grave physical, mental and emotional injury.”

As recently as July 2017, Epstein refused to allow an official to enter his Little Saint James island for routine monitoring of the registered sex offender, the lawsuit claims.

He is also accused of using fake visas to traffic women and girls, several of them aspiring models, in and out of the island territory and using a computerised database in order to track his victims’ movements on his island.

In one incident, the suit claims that a 15-year-old girl attempted to swim away from Epstein’s island after she was forced to engage in sex acts with Epstein and others.

In that case, she was captured and had her passport confiscated by Epstein, the suit claims.

Epstein’s legal permanent residence was registered to the Virgin Islands. In the days before his suicide in jail, he filed an updated version of his will to the US island territory.

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