Maxwell, 58, has been named in multiple lawsuits by women who said they were abused by the disgraced US financier, who killed himself last August.
She was arrested Thursday morning in New Hampshire, said Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the US attorney's office.
Maxwell, whose whereabouts have been unclear since the arrest last summer of Epstein, has been under investigation for allegedly facilitating Epstein's recruitment of young girls and women.
In the wake of Epstein's suicide in August 2019, public pressure has mounted to hold those who might have assisted him -- perhaps including Maxwell and a coterie of young women who allegedly worked under her -- accountable not only for his actions, but also for their own roles.
In that investigation, Maxwell has remained a significant target. She has denied wrongdoing, and in a deposition has called at least one of her accusers "a liar."
So who is Maxwell? Why was she hiding, and what accusations does she face?
Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?
Born in 1961, the British socialite grew up in the idyllic Oxfordshire countryside and is the daughter of Robert Maxwell -- a Czech-born newspaper tycoon and British lawmaker who died under mysterious circumstances. The media magnate fell off his luxury yacht -- called "Lady Ghislaine" -- around the Canary Islands in 1991. He was posthumously discovered to have committed a massive pension fraud against his employees.
According to Roy Greenslade, who worked for the media mogul as editor of The Daily Mirror in the early 1990s, Maxwell "doted" on Ghislaine "in a way that he didn't on his sons."
"He was a monstrous father," Greenslade recalls. "He treated his whole family very badly." But when it came to the youngest of his nine children, Maxwell "treated her more leniently than any of them."
In his biography of the tycoon, "Maxwell: The Rise and Fall of Robert Maxwell and his Empire," Greenslade recalls one evening in particular when he was sitting in an office with Maxwell and the daredevil teenager wandered in. He says Maxwell gave his daughter a scolding for "always taking risks, doing stupid, dangerous things" after she had a near-fatal accident after diving off a boat.
"She was quite clever at dealing with him," Greenslade explains, adding that she always spoke sweetly to her father in ways that he found difficult to challenge.
After Ghislaine left, Greenslade says Maxwell turned to him with a sense of pride in his voice: "She's like me."
That, Greenslade says, is evidence of perhaps why he favored her the most.
In 1991 the media mogul died, with an inquest ruling that his death was due to a heart attack combined with accidental drowning. However, some believe Maxwell's death was suicide with his business empire teetering on the brink of ruin.
There were plaudits at the time for the way Ghislaine handled the family tragedy. "People who were there at the time (when Maxwell died), said she dealt with it brilliantly," Greenslade said. "Dry-eyed, dealing well with the press."
Following her father's death, Maxwell reportedly moved to the United States.
"She was probably left with no money," Greenslade says, despite many speculating she secured income from a secret trust.
In the US, Maxwell lived a public life and socialized in exclusive circles that included people connected to politics.
According to eyewitness accounts, Maxwell was invited to former first daughter Chelsea Clinton's wedding and was even brought backstage at the Clinton Global Initiative summit in 2009. However Bari Lurie -- a spokesperson for Chelsea Clinton, says the only reason Clinton was acquainted with Maxwell was because the socialite was dating a friend of hers.
Maxwell was also photographed in 2000 with Donald Trump and his future wife, Melania Trump, alongside Epstein.
Maxwell was also in the background of the infamous photograph of Prince Andrew, which shows him with his arms around the waist of a young woman named Virginia Roberts. Roberts alleges that she was trafficked by Epstein with the help of Maxwell and forced to have sex with his friends, including Prince Andrew, when she was a minor. The prince has emphatically denied having sex with Roberts, and says he has "no recollection of the photograph ever being taken."
In 2012 Maxwell founded the charity, the TerraMar Project, which sought to encourage ocean conservation. However, the non-profit ceased operations in December 2019, according to records at the UK's Companies House. The same year federal prosecutors in New York unsealed a criminal indictment charging Epstein with having operated a sex trafficking ring between 2002 and 2005 where he paid girls as young as 14 to have sex with him.
How is she connected to Jeffrey Epstein?
Ghislaine Maxwell was the ex-girlfriend turned social companion of Epstein, who died by suicide in his jail cell at the age of 66 while awaiting trial on federal charges of sexually abusing underage girls and running a sex trafficking ring. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The pair are reported to have split in the 1990s, although the socialite remained close to the pedophile. Her name has been frequently mentioned in a cache of documents that were unsealed earlier this year that allege she was a procurer for Epstein and other high-profile people.
In 2003 Epstein described Maxwell as his best friend in a profile with Vanity Fair.