Prince Andrew 'bewildered' by claims he hasn't offered to cooperate in Epstein case

2 July 2020, 23:15

Lawyers for Prince Andrew say they have approached US officials twice in the past month
Lawyers for Prince Andrew say they have approached US officials twice in the past month. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Prince Andrew is "bewildered" over claims he has not offered to cooperate with US officials over the Jeffrey Epstein investigation, following the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell.

US justice officials have said they would "welcome" the opportunity to speak with the Duke of York about the Epstein scandal after the FBI arrested the disgraced financier's ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.

The 58-year-old socialite was taken into custody in Bradford, New Hampshire, at around 8:30am local time on Thursday in connection with Epstein's crimes.

She has been charged with: conspiracy to entice minors to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors to engage in illegal sex acts, transportation of a minor to engage in illegal sex acts, and perjury.

Prince Andrew's lawyers have since rubbished claims he has not offered to help investigators, saying they have "twice communicated" with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in the past month but have still had "no response" from officials.

But acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, Audrey Strauss, has said she would "welcome" a statement from the Queen's son.

Read more: Top prosecutor investigating Epstein and Prince Andrew links 'has not resigned'

Ms Strauss was speaking at a press conference announcing charges against Maxwell, including allegations she participated in the abuse of young girls by Epstein.

"I'm not going to comment on anyone's status in this investigation but I will say that we would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us, we would like to have the benefit of his statement," she said.

However, a source close to Prince Andrew's working group said: "The duke's team remains bewildered given that we have twice communicated with the DoJ in the last month and to date we have had no response."

The prince has been engaged in a long-running battle with US law enforcement regarding his availability to answer questions about his former friend and convicted sex offender Epstein.

Andrew has even been accused of attempting to "falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to co-operate" and was said to have "completely shut the door on voluntary co-operation" by Geoffrey Berman, a US prosecutor leading the investigation into Epstein until last month.

Read more: Epstein victim's lawyer urges Prince Andrew to 'take the oath and just tell the truth'

Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on Thursday
Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on Thursday. Picture: Getty

But the duke's legal team claim he has made three separate offers this year to give a witness statement, and a royal source has described Mr Berman's actions as "frankly bewildering" and a breach of confidentiality rules.

His legal team said in its statement: "The Duke of York has on at least three occasions this year offered his assistance as a witness to the DoJ.

"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. In doing so, they are perhaps seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered."

US attorney general William Barr also weighed into the matter, dismissing reports the UK would extradite the royal to the US.

Mr Barr told Fox News: "I don't think it's a question of handing him over. I think it's just a question of having him provide some evidence."

Prince Andrew pictured with Maxwell in 2000
Prince Andrew pictured with Maxwell in 2000. Picture: Getty

Prince Andrew has known Maxwell, the daughter of media tycoon Robert Maxwell, since her university days.

During his only television interview about his links to Epstein, the duke mentions Maxwell more than a dozen times.

In the interview with the BBC, Andrew said: "Remember that it was his girlfriend that was the key element in this. He was the, as it were, plus one, to some extent in that aspect."

One of Epstein's alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked by the financier, alleges the duke had sex with her on three separate occasions, including when she was 17, still a minor under US law.

Andrew categorically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Ms Giuffre Roberts.

Virginia Roberts Guiffre claims Prince Andrew had sexual intercourse with her aged 17, which he denies
Virginia Roberts Guiffre claims Prince Andrew had sexual intercourse with her aged 17, which he denies. Picture: PA

In the BBC interview, Andrew said he had no recollection of meeting Mrs Giuffre Roberts.

However, a photograph reportedly taken in 2001 shows the prince with his arm around Ms Giuffre Roberts, while Maxwell can be seen in the background.

Maxwell was described in a lawsuit by Epstein victim Sarah Ransome as the "highest-ranking employee" of Epstein's alleged sex trafficking enterprise.

She oversaw and trained recruiters, developed recruiting plans and helped conceal the activity from law enforcement, the lawsuit alleged.

Maxwell has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called some of the claims against her “absolute rubbish.”

Epstein was arrested in June of last year, and Maxwell has kept a low profile since. Until this morning it was not publicly known she was in the United States.