On a cold December afternoon on Manhattan's Upper East Side, an attractive brunette rushes from the now infamous Jeffrey Epstein mansion and loads her luggage in a waiting taxi.
Although far from an unusual event – witnesses have spoken about a & # 39; revolving door & # 39; of young women entering and leaving the house of the corrupted millionaire – the identity of this guest in the house presents an intriguing mystery, not least because Prince Andrew was in the mansion at the time the photo was taken. A tag on her suitcase suggests that she is Svetlana Pozhidaeva, a former Russian model whose father was a lieutenant colonel in the Red Army and who went to a university of Moscow that was once described as an & # 39; incubator & # 39; for the KGB. She later joined a Jean-Luc Brunel modeling agency, who was accused of purchasing young women for Epstein.
The toxicity of the scandal is such that almost everyone in Epstein's job seeks cover, and Mrs. Pozhidaeva, who is now a charity for women, is no exception.
Simply put, she denies being the woman who entered his camera on December 7, 2010, and left his home, even though close relatives notice the striking similarity.
Svetlana Pozhidaeva on an undated photo in Moscow, Russia. Mrs. Pozhidaeva is a former Russian model whose father was a lieutenant colonel in the Red Army and went to a university in Moscow herself
What Mrs. Pozhidaeva recognizes, however, is a long association with Epstein, whom she once thought highly and who helped her to enter the charity world (although sources say she has now given the money back) and that she was depicted as food of an avocado outside his house in 2016.
Sources close to Mrs. Pozhidaeva, known as Lana to friends, stressed last night that she did not know the duke and & # 39; never spoke to him & # 39 ;. Strangely enough, however, someone said: & # 39; You can ask him (about Mrs. Pozhidaeva) and most likely he would say the same, I think. & # 39;
It is indeed understood that Prince Andrew, who spent at least six days in Epstein & # 39; s home in Manhattan in December 2010, has no memory of a woman named Svetlana Pozhidaeva. He has repeatedly denied any improper behavior and insisted that at any time during the limited time I spent with him (Epstein) I have seen, or suspected that such behavior resulted in his arrest and conviction. led & # 39 ;.
No memory of meeting: Prince Andrew at the Epstein mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2010
As The Mail revealed on Sunday last month, the Prince was caught on camera on December 6, 2010 and stood in the doorway of Epstein & # 39; s mansion waving cheerfully from Katherine Keating, the daughter of former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating. Less than 24 hours later – at 2:07 pm – "Svetlana" left with her suitcase.
Meanwhile, a close relative of Mrs. Pozhidaeva, now 35, of Epstein said: "Yes, of course we know him. In our family, among ourselves, we call him & # 39; Friend & # 39; to prevent us from calling him by name. & # 39;
There is no evidence that Mrs. Pozhidaeva was one of the victims of Epstein. Sources maintain that her relationship with him was based on a shared interest in charitable efforts.
Yet there is something – or rather someone – that threatens to drag her further into the affair: both she and Epstein are connected to Jean-Luc Brunel.
Four years ago, Brunel, now in his 70s & 70s, was mentioned in a civil lawsuit in which he was accused of buying young girls for the financier, something he denies.
Flying visit: a woman resembling Mrs. Pozhidaeva leaving the mansion of the corrupt millionaire on December 7, 2010, with her Aeroflot flight label visible. Mrs Pozhidaeva denies that she is the woman caught in the camera leaving his house, even though close relatives notice the striking similarity
In a photo that emerged last week, Brunel is shown cuddling to Robert Maxwell's angry daughter, Ghislaine, who was accused in the same way of recruiting teenage girls for Epstein prostitution. She also denies the claims. Before her charity career started, Mrs. Pozhidaeva was signed to model agency MC2 van Brunel. One of Brunel's damaging claims is that young Eastern European girls were brought to the US by MC2 via the private jet from Epstein. The luggage tag at the back of the taxi on December 7, 2010, however, shows a Mrs. Pozhidaeva arriving on November 19 that year on an Aeroflot flight in New York.
It is unclear how Mrs. Pozhidaeva and Epstein met, but according to one source, the financier soon offered her the opportunity to study and attend & # 39; conferences with scientists & # 39 ;.
"What she liked was that he donated a lot to science and helped many researchers and interesting people," the source said.
Mrs Pozhidaeva now has an interesting background. She grew up in Moscow in a flat in an apartment building from the 1950s, built for staff of the NKVD, the Stalinist predecessor of the KGB. With its peeling paint and unobtrusive exterior, it couldn't contrast more sharply with the lush house of Epstein, which he once boasted, one of the largest private houses in Manhattan.
An Aeroflot flight label visible on the woman's suitcase that suggests it belongs to the former Russian model Svetlana Pozhidaeva
Interestingly, although Mrs. Pozhidaeva appeared in the prestigious Forbes magazine for her charity work, she is not in a US public database.
She was educated at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, known as a training ground for Russian diplomats and spies, and is the daughter of Yury Pozhidaev, 61, who received the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Russian army before retiring to the enter the business world.
Her grandfather, who died in 1999, is buried in the family safe in the most prestigious cemetery in Russia, Novodevichy, in Moscow.
Svetlana Pozhidaeva eats an avocado while she walks outside of Epstein's New York home
It is unclear how Mrs. Pozhidaeva went from visiting Epstein & # 39; s country house to founding a charity with the help of his money, which apparently guaranteed her admission to New York society.
In an interview in 2018 she admitted in faltering English: "I was refused a tourist visa to New York without explaining the reasons. I just came to the consulate and they said "No". Eventually I managed to come here with a model visa … If someone tells me that I am crazy, I consider it a compliment because the worst thing is being regular and boring. I started making money fairly quickly, which rarely happens when modeling. & # 39;
She founded a charity called WE Talks (Women's Empowerment) in December 2017 and chairs another charity based in New York, Education Advance, which is said to have received over £ 40,000 from Epstein – an amount that goes to reportedly has now returned.
Her charity mentions her contact address as East 66th Street – a building owned by Epstein and registered in the name of his brother Mark. He became the sole heir to Epstein's fortune in the pedophile's will, two weeks before committing suicide on August 10 by hanging himself in the Manhattan Correctional Center.
Model teacher Jean-Luc Brunel, 72, depicted on Australia's next top model in 2008. Jean-Luc Brunel has been accused of purchasing young women for Epstein
Mrs. Pozhidaeva's charity website – recently removed – says she came to the US with a model visa and followed an online accounting and business management course at Harvard University.
In the Forbes interview about her charity work, she said: "I am convinced that taking risks is in my DNA. I grew up playing tennis, competing on a high-level junior circuit in my country, and I could not have predicted and & # 39; normal & # 39; imagine life in Moscow.
"I come from a very patriarchal society where women are encouraged to study and meet their future husband in their early 20s, after which they are expected to get married and take care of their homes."
It is intriguing that Mrs. Pozhidaeva shares a lawyer, Darren Indyke, with Epstein.
He declined to comment.
A man named Pendleton King, who claimed to be Mrs. Pozhidaeva's boyfriend, said she & # 39; very few & # 39; knew about Epstein when she accepted his substantial donation to her charity and added: “She has never been involved in anything obscure. The money went to something positive. & # 39;
For now, Pozhidaeva herself refuses to discuss her high-profile connections.
No doubt there will be some who fervently wish this to continue.
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