One of Jeffrey Epstein’s long-time accusers has sued Prince Andrew, saying he sexually assaulted her when she was 17.
Lawyers for American-Australian Virginia Giuffre filed the lawsuit on Monday (local time) in Manhattan federal court.
In a statement, Ms Giuffre – who grew up in the US but now lives in Cairns – said the lawsuit was brought under the Child Victims Act to allege she was trafficked to the British royal and sexually abused by him.
“I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me,” she said.
“The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions. I hope that other victims will see that it is possible not to live in silence and fear, but to reclaim one’s life by speaking out and demanding justice.
“I did not come to this decision lightly,” she added.
“As a mother and a wife, my family comes first – and I know that this action will subject me to further attacks by Prince Andrew and his surrogates – but I knew if I did not pursue this action, I would be letting them and victims everywhere down.”
In late 2019, Prince Andrew told BBC Newsnight that he never had sex with Ms Giuffre, saying, “It didn’t happen.”
According to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, the prince abused Ms Giuffre on multiple occasions when she was under 18.
It said that on one occasion, the prince sexually abused her in London at the home of Ghislaine Maxwell when Epstein, Ms Maxwell and Prince Andrew forced Ms Giuffre to have sexual intercourse with the royal against her will.
On another occasion, Andrew sexually abused Ms Giuffre in Epstein’s New York mansion when Ms Maxwell forced her and another victim to sit on the prince’s lap as he touched her, the lawsuit alleges.
It also alleges that Andrew – the Queen’s second son – sexually abused Ms Giuffre on Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands.
During each of the alleged acts, Ms Giuffre was given “express or implied threats” by Epstein, Ms Maxwell, and/or Andrew to engage in sexual acts with the prince, the lawsuit claims.
She “feared death or physical injury to herself or another and other repercussions for disobeying” the trio because of their “powerful connections, wealth, and authority”, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit added that Andrew knew her age at the time based on communications with Epstein and Ms Maxwell. It said he went ahead anyway “for the purpose of gratifying his sexual desires”.
Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges in Manhattan federal court. She faces trial in November.
Epstein, 66, took his own life in a federal jail in Manhattan in August 2019, a month after he was arrested on sex trafficking charges.
As part of their continuing probe into Epstein and his encounters with women and teenage girls, Manhattan federal prosecutors have formally requested to speak with Andrew.
The request, similar to issuing a subpoena, was made under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, an agreement between Britain and the US to share evidence and information in criminal cases.