(fashion) On a chilly December afternoon on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, an attractive brunette hurries from Jeffrey Epstein’s now infamous mansion and loads her luggage into the back of a waiting taxi.
While far from an unusual occurrence – witnesses have spoken of a ‘revolving door’ of young women entering and leaving the depraved millionaire’s home – the identity of this particular house guest presents an intriguing mystery, not least because Prince Andrew was inside the mansion at the time the photograph was taken. A tag on her suitcase suggests she is Svetlana Pozhidaeva, a former Russian model whose father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Red Army and who herself attended a Moscow university once described as an ‘incubator’ for the KGB. She later joined a model agency run by Jean-Luc Brunel, who has been accused of procuring young women for Epstein.
Such is the scandal’s toxicity that almost everyone in Epstein’s orbit is running for cover and Ms Pozhidaeva, who now heads a women’s charity, is no exception.
Quite simply, she denies she is the woman caught on camera leaving his house on December 7, 2010, though even close relatives note the striking resemblance.
Svetlana Pozhidaeva in an undated photograph in Moscow, Russia. Ms Pozhidaeva is a former Russian model whose father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Red Army and who herself attended a Moscow university
What Ms Pozhidaeva does acknowledge, however, is a long association with Epstein, of whom she once thought highly and who helped bankroll her entry into the charity world (though sources say she has now returned the money) and that she was pictured eating an avocado outside his house in 2016.
Sources close to Ms Pozhidaeva, known as Lana to friends, last night stressed that she does not know the Duke and has ‘never talked to him’. Curiously, however, one said: ‘You can ask him [about Ms Pozhidaeva] and most likely he’d say the same thing, I think.’
It is indeed understood that Prince Andrew, who spent at least six days at Epstein’s Manhattan home in December 2010, has no memory of a woman called Svetlana Pozhidaeva. He has repeatedly denied any inappropriate behaviour and insisted that ‘at no stage during the limited time I spent with him [Epstein] did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction’.
No memory of meeting: Prince Andrew in Epstein’s mansion in Manhattan's Upper East Side in 2010
As The Mail on Sunday revealed last month, the Prince was caught on camera on December 6, 2010, standing in the doorway of Epstein’s mansion cheerily waving off Katherine Keating, the daughter of the former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating. Less than 24 hours later – at 2.07pm – ‘Svetlana’ left with her suitcase.
Meanwhile, a close relative of Ms Pozhidaeva, now 35, said of Epstein: ‘Yes, of course we know him. In our family, between ourselves, we call him “Friend” to avoid calling him by his name.’
There is no evidence that Ms Pozhidaeva was one of Epstein’s victims. Sources insist her relationship with him was founded on a shared interest in charitable endeavours.
Nevertheless there is something – or rather someone – that threatens to drag her further into the affair: both she and Epstein are linked to Jean-Luc Brunel.
Four years ago Brunel, now in his 70s, was named in a civil lawsuit in which he was accused of procuring young girls for the financier, something he denies.
Flying visit: A woman resembling Ms Pozhidaeva leaving the depraved millionaire’s mansion on December 7, 2010, with her Aeroflot flight tag visible. Ms Pozhidaeva denies she is the woman caught on camera leaving his house, though even close relatives note the striking resemblance
In a photograph that emerged last week, Brunel is shown cuddling up to crooked tycoon Robert Maxwell’s daughter, Ghislaine, who has been similarly accused of recruiting teenage girls to Epstein’s child prostitution