Prince Andrew: Refusal to talk to Epstein investigators ‘straining relations between UK and America’

Fears issue over Duke of York could affect wider efforts to collaborate on high-profile legal cases

Anna Isaac
Thursday 12 August 2021 09:22

Related video: Prince Andrew sued by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre for alleged sexual abuse

US authorities are growing increasingly frustrated with Prince Andrew’s failure to cooperate into their probe into the network surrounding convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, exacerbating tensions between Washington and London, The Independent understands.

People familiar with authorities’ investigations into Mr Epstein’s business affairs told The Independent that the lack of information-sharing had caused diplomatic strain, with US law enforcement and diplomats raising the matter with their British counterparts.

They said a new civil case brought by Virginia Giuffre, alleging the Duke of York had sexually abused her, will add further strain over the issue, along with the prosecution of Esptein’s former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, who is set to go on trial for sex trafficking charges later this year.

There are fears that the issue could sour broader efforts to collaborate on high profile legal cases.

The prince has consistently denied the allegations, while Ms Maxwell denies the charges against her.

The lack of cooperation now spans three years of reported attempts by the US authorities to gather facts from the royal who, in a statement from 2019, said he would be willing to help US law-enforcement with investigations. However, in January last year, Manhattan US attorney Geoffrey Berman said the country’s authorities had received “zero cooperation” from the prince, who no longer carries out royal duties.

In June 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported that an application had been made by the Department of Justice (DoJ) under a US-UK mutual legal assistance treaty in order to win cooperation from the Duke of York.

This avenue has not been effective, according to sources. They contend that Prince Andrew has failed to share details of the extent of his ties to Mr Epstein, whose death in a Manhattan prison in 2019 was ruled a suicide. The extent and nature of Mr Epstein’s financial network is still being explored in several jurisdictions, including the US.

Of particular interest to the US authorities is how money transfers may be linked to the movement of young women and girls. The various interested bodies, including the FBI, believe these may offer insights into ongoing organised criminal operations.

These probes are significant not only for legal proceedings related to Epstein, but also to ongoing investigations surrounding Ms Maxwell, who is currently in prison awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.

It is also alleged that multiple authorities are seeking details of flights that the Duke of York used to visit Epstein in a range of locations, so that they can better understand how people may have travelled into and out of the disgraced financier’s orbit. The authorities’ interests are understood to include multiple trips by the royal to Epstein’s Caribbean island, Little St James, as well as Florida and New York.

Last year, prosecutors in the US Virgin Islands, which includes Little St James, alleged Mr Epstein abused hundreds of young women and girls up until 2018.

The frustration over the Duke of York’s lack of cooperation is said to be amplified by the fact that it appears unlikely that the royal would be extradited. His cooperation would therefore be a matter of bolstering diplomatic relations and sharing any information which could help avoid future trafficking of young women and girls.

The lawyer representing Ms Giuffre has accused the prince, who is facing the Queen after arriving at Balmoral on Tuesday, of “stonewalling” appeals for information after the 15-page lawsuit was filed in New York. The prince is the only defendant in the suit, which alleges she was “lent out for sexual purposes” by Epstein. David Boies said his client ultimately wanted “vindication” from the legal action.

In 2019, Prince Andrew told the BBC that he had not had sex with Giuffre. “It didn’t happen,” he said. He also said that he had no recollection of having met her.

In an interview with the Financial Times last week aimed at promoting her novel, Prince Andrew’s ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, suggested that he would make a future public statement about Giuffre’s allegations. The newspaper reported that she said, “He will say, when the time is right.” She added that she was not “legally allowed” to discuss the matter further.

A representative for Prince Andrew declined to comment on the fresh allegations regarding cooperation. A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace declined to comment and referred The Independent to Prince Andrew’s representatives. Similarly, both the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the US DoJ declined to comment.

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