Prince Andrew’s lawyers say police want “publicity” for their work bringing down pedophile Jeffrey Epstein rather than actual help in the case, as the US demand the Duke to be handed over for questioning.
Prosecutors have gone straight to the Britain government with their request to quiz the prince, bypassing Buckingham Palace.
Prosecutors have previously alleged the Queen’s second son has provided “zero co-operation” to US authorities investigating the convicted sex offender.
In a statement early on Tuesday (Australian time), Prince Andrew’s lawyers said “the Duke of York has on at least three occasions this year” offered to help the Department of Justice.
“Unfortunately, the DOJ has reacted to the first two offers by breaching their own confidentiality rules and claiming that the duke has offered zero co-operation,” they said.
“In doing so, they are perhaps seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered.”
The US department of justice has filed a ‘mutual legal assistance’ (MLA) request, which allows international co-operation between the US and Britain when gathering evidence for a criminal investigation.
The MLA process is normally secret.
The request will require Prince Andrew to testify and comment on his connection with Epstein’s sex trafficking network.
This comes less than two weeks after Netflix’s explosive exposé, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, provided further details on the behaviour of well-known celebrities and wealthy businessmen connected to the now-deceased pedophile.
In one episode, a tradesman who worked for Epstein said he saw Prince Andrew “grinding” on a an underage girl in a pool on the billionaire’s private island.
Steve Scully has since identified as Virginia Giuffre, one of the pedophile’s victims.
Prince Andrew, US President Donald Trump and former president Bill Clinton are among the many high-profile men known to have socialised with Epstein.
Ms Giuffre has alleged she was forced to have sex with the prince.
Andrew had publicly promised to help police “if required” but the US has said the 60-year-old has refused to be questioned over his links to Epstein.
Following a disastrous TV interview in 2019, the Duke released a statement declaring he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency … if required”.
The MLA request makes it clear he is, indeed, required.
Despite the accusations against him, the prince is reportedly not the target of the US investigation.
A source told The Sun that a criminal investigation was a “nightmare” for the Duke of York.
“It’s a huge statement of intent from the US and it moves Andrew into the realms of a criminal investigation. It’s also frankly a diplomatic nightmare,” the source said.
“The [department] does not make a request of this nature lightly, especially one involving a senior member of the British royal family.
“It puts the UK government in a very difficult position – and the Duke of York even more so.”
The Prince will likely be called as a witness, and might be asked to provide oral or written evidence under oath at the City of Westminster Magistrates Court in London.
Alternatively, the MLA might require Prince Andrew to attend an interview and sign a written statement, but this would not be under oath.
In November 2019, Prince Andrew, who has long denied any wrongdoing, issued a statement announcing his willingness to co-operate with police.
“I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations,” he said.
But in January, New York district attorney Geoffrey Berman criticised the senior royal for his reluctance to assist police.
“The Southern District of New York and the FBI have contacted Prince Andrew’s attorneys and requested to interview Prince Andrew, and to date Prince Andrew has provided zero co-operation,” Mr Berman said.
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