The chief prosecutor in Paris has opened a preliminary inquiry to determine whether late US financier Jeffrey Epstein committed any sex crimes on French territory or against any underage French victims, prosecutor Remy Heitz's office said on Friday.
"The verifications and cross-checking undertaken on the basis of elements submitted to prosecutors and exchanges with the American authorities in the context of the Epstein affair have prompted the Paris prosecutor's office to open a preliminary inquiry", Friday's statement said.
No further details were immediately provided.
The potential charges could include rape and sexual assault against minors, including some younger than 15 years old, prosecutors said.
Epstein died on August 10 in his jail cell at the age of 66, and an autopsy report released this month concluded he had hanged himself.
Earlier this week Innocence in Danger, a French charity working to protect children against sexual violence, said it had collected 10 witness statements involving alleged sexual crimes involving minors that took place in France.
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Mr Epstein was convicted in 2008 in the United States of sex with a minor.
Epstein was reported to have links in France, and two French secretaries of state - for women's rights and the protection of children - said this month that an investigation should be opened.
Their move was met with finger-shaking from the justice minister, who said it amounted to interfering with the judicial system.
The goal of the investigation is to uncover eventual infractions in France as well as on any French victims overseas, the statement said. "The American investigation has brought to light links in France", the officials, Marlene Schiappa and Adrien Taquet, said in an August 12 statement.
One of Epstein's close friends and allies was the formerly powerful French modelling tycoon Jean-Luc Brunel, who was accused in court documents of procuring young girls for Epstein, as well as of rape.
Shortly afterwards, Brunel issued a rare statement that itself broke years of silence in which he vehemently denied involvement, "directly or indirectly", in Epstein's crimes. That case was still in litigation this year.