US billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges in a Manhattan federal court on Monday (local time) following an unsealed indictment saying he abused numerous underage girls - some as young as 14.
The 66-year-old hedge fund manager entered a not guilty plea before being charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
If convicted, Epstein could face up to 45 years in prison.
The financier is accused of intentionally seeking out minors and paying a number of girls to perform nude massages in his luxury homes before assaulting them.
"The victims described were as young as 14-years-old at the time they were abused by Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, and were, for various reasons, often particularly vulnerable to exploitation," says the indictment.
"[He] knew that many of his victims were under the age of 18.
"Epstein created a vast network of underage [victims]... to sexually exploit in locations including New York and Palm Beach."
Epstein avoided similar charges in a highly criticised 2007 plea deal. He pleaded guilty to a reduced felony prostitution charge and registered as a sex offender after facing a potential life sentence, The Telegraph reports. He was jailed for 13 months.
He has been known to socialise in a circle of powerful people including US President Donald Trump, former president Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew.
Around a dozen federal agents reportedly broke down the door to Epstein's three-storey, NZ$116 million Manhattan townhouse to execute search warrants on Saturday following his arrest.