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US financier Epstein arrested on sex charges

NEW YORK: Wealthy financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on Saturday in New York on new sex-trafficking charges involving allegations that date to the early 2000s, according tolaw enforcement officials.

Epstein, a wealthy hedge fund manager who once counted as friends former President Bill Clinton, Great Britain`s Prince Andrew, and President Donald Trump, was taken into federal custody and is expected to appear in Manhattan federalcourt, three law enforcement officials said.

One of the officials said Epstein is accused of paying underage girls for massages and molesting them at his homes in Florida and New York.A message was sent to Epstein`s defense attorney seeking comment. Epstein is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

Epstein`s arrest, first reported by The Daily Beast, comes amid renewed scrutiny of a once-secret plea deal that ended a federal investigation against him.

That deal, which is being challenged in Florida federal court, allowed Epstein, who is now 66, to plead guilty to lesser state charges of soliciting and procuring a person under age 18 for prostitution.

Averting a possible life sentence, Epstein was instead sentenced to 13 months in jail.

The deal also required he reach financial settlements with dozens of his once-teenage victims and register as a sex offender.

Epstein`s deal was overseen by former Miami US Attorney Alexander Acosta, who is now Trump`s labour secretary. Acosta has defended the plea deal as appropriate under the circumstances, though the White House said in February that it was `looking into` his handling of the deal.

US District Judge Kenneth Marra of Florida ruled earlier this year that Epstein`s victims should have been consulted under federal law about the deal, and he is now weighing whether to invalidate the nonprosecution agreement, or NPA, that protected Epstein from federal charges.

It was not immediately clear whether the cases involved the same victims since nearly all have remained anonymous.-AP