Prince Andrew may speak publicly for first time about sex allegations at World Economic Forum

The Duke of York is holding his annual drinks reception in Davos

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The Independent Online

Prince Andrew may speak publicly about allegations he had sex with a teenage “sex slave” as he makes his first public appearance since the scandal broke at the World Economic Forum.

The Duke of York is joining ministers, chief executives, bankers and academics at the four-day event at the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.

He will be holding his annual drinks reception in aid of British business and his Pitch@Palace competition, which supports young people developing digital ventures.

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The Duke of York with his accuser, Virginia Roberts

The event is usually closed to the media but television cameras could reportedly be invited inside for a speech by Prince Andrew.

Buckingham Palace told The Independent that suggestions that he will use the opportunity to publicly deny claims he slept with Virginia Roberts was mere “speculation”.

  A spokesperson said: “Media arrangements for the Duke of York's reception have yet to be determined. We would not speculate on what the Duke might or might not say during any public comments.”

The palace has previously issued staunch denials to claims that the Prince slept with Ms Roberts on three occasions between 1999 and 2002 in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island during an orgy.

The allegations are contained in a motion filed in a Florida court as part of a lawsuit over how federal prosecutors handled the case of Jeffrey Epstein, who was jailed for 18 months in 2008 for soliciting a minor for paid sex.

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Billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to solicitation and procuring a person under the age of 18 for prostitution

Prince Andrew, 54, stepped down as the UK’s trade envoy in July 2011 following controversy over his friendship with the American financier.

“This will hopefully be a chance for Prince Andrew to draw a line under the Epstein business and move on,” a source told the Mail on Sunday.

“He wants to put this behind him and he realises that if he didn’t address the allegations, then his message about entrepreneurship might get lost.”

Liberal Democrat MPs Sir Menzies Campbell and Norman Baker had both urged the royal to stay away from Davos.

Mr Baker told the BBC: “I think it would be helpful if he wasn't going because of the furore which is surrounding him at the present time, which may well be very unfair.

"I don't know and nobody does know. But I certainly think when we represent our country abroad, whoever we are, we have to bear in mind how that will be received at any particular point."

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies spoke of the need for "discretion rather than distraction".

Three Labour members of a Commons business committee also said they were worried he would prove a distraction at Davos, shifting the focus away from British business to his private life.

Prince Andrew’s former wife, Sarah Ferguson, defended him earlier this month, calling him the “a great man, the best in the world”.