Ghislaine Maxwell’s father’s ‘shady’ post-World War 2 life laid bare: ‘No loyalties’

House of Maxwell: Tom Bower discusses Robert Maxwell

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Ghislaine Maxwell is currently awaiting sentencing in a New York prison, having been convicted of recruiting and grooming teenage girls for sexual encounters with the disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein. She is the youngest daughter of Robert Maxwell, a media tycoon, whose mysterious death triggered the collapse of his publishing empire. The Maxwell family was embroiled in scandal long before her crimes with Epstein were exposed. 

A new BBC documentary, ‘House of Maxwell’, explores one of the media world’s most scandalous family sagas. 

It begins with footage of the super yacht, dubbed Lady Ghislaine, that Maxwell suddenly disappeared from. 

He was born into extreme poverty in the Carpathian Mountains, in what was then Czechoslovakia, and went on to become a decorated war hero, a businessman, a Labour MP and later a media tycoon. 

At the height of his fame, “everyone was believing that he was a renaissance man,” and investigative journalist Tom Bower “was asked to write a book about the truth”.

He told the documentary: “Maxwell was keen to let everyone know he was a decorated war hero but his life post-war is where things got very shady.”

Mr Bower added: “He [Maxwell] was working for both British intelligence and Russian intelligence. No loyalties other than to himself.”

The journalist said he “wanted to find out who Maxwell really was and how he’d built such an empire.” 

In Berlin, Mr Bower said: “[Maxwell] ran a very, very lucrative black market operation, buying and selling cigarettes and nylons, and all chewing gum, food, everything. 

“He is the heart of taking goods from zone to zone and putting the cash in his pockets.”

He continued: “Maxwell was someone who wants power, who wants influence, who wants wealth, who wants to change the world.

“He goes across to the Russians, declares himself, gets on very well with them, and establishes good connections. He becomes a KGB agent.” 

In a previously unseen clip filmed in 1992, former KGB Chief Leonid Shebarshin said that Maxwell was a “special person”.

He added: “A foreigner can be useful to us as a person who would have access to some information, and who would willingly or unwillingly share it with us.”

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Mr Bower explained that Maxwell had presented himself to MI6 around the same time, claiming to have “established amazing connections” with leading scientists around the world. 

Unbelievably, he actually wanted the British intelligence agency to finance the start of his publishing company.   

Desmond Bristow, an MI6 officer, explained: “It was obvious that he had been doing odd things for MI6 from Germany already and he suggested that we should subsidise him to buy a book business. 

“I don’t know of any other case, I was certainly never involved with MI6 buying a business for anybody.’  

Mr Bower added: “He was working for both British intelligence and Russian intelligence.

“No loyalties other than to himself. After all this digging, it was finally time to start writing my book.”

However, Maxwell was aware of Mr Bower’s investigation and attempted to prevent the book from being published. 

Maxwell “hired several private investigators, who not only followed” Mr Bower but also secretly set up “some sort of electronic device” at the bottom of the journalist’s garden, which was able to read what he was typing up.

The media mogul also said he would sue anyone who handled the book, including the author, book shops and distributors for libel. 

Mr Bower explained: “Like a pack of cards they all collapsed. 

“The establishment was on Maxwell’s side. 

“He used terrorist’s tactics to suppress the truth, suppress the book. And he won.”

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