Royal News

Prince Andrew says he offered to help Epstein probe THREE times and slams unfair treatment from US authorities

PRINCE ANDREW today revealed he has offered to help American prosecutors three times in their investigation into Jeffrey Epstein as he slammed his treatment by US authorities.

The 60-year-old royal faced widespread criticism after the US Department of Justice claimed he had refused to speak with them as part of their investigation into Epstein's evil historic sex trafficking network.

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Prince Andrew has come under increased scrutiny by American authorities for his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein[/caption]
Jae Donnelly
The royal came under fire for his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein[/caption]

The unprecedented statement comes after The Sun revealed the DOJ formally told the UK the Duke of York is now caught up in a criminal probe for the first time.

And Prince Andrew’s legal firm today hit out at the claims from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, that there had been a “wall of silence” from the duke.

In a statement released this afternoon, legal firm Blackfords LLP said: “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 cooperation.

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

And they added: “Far from our client acting above the law, as has been implied by press briefings in the US, he is being treated by a lower standard than might reasonably be expected for any other citizen.

“Further, those same breaches of confidentiality by the DOJ have given the global media – and, therefore, the worldwide audience – an entirely misleading account of our discussions with them.

“Any pursuit of an application for mutual legal assistance would be disappointing, since the Duke of York is not a target of the DOJ investigation and has recently repeated his willingness to provide a witness statement.

“It is hoped that this third offer has not been the cause of the most recent leak about the Duke of York.”

And they said that they had been given “unequivocal assurances” that the interview process for the duke would remain confidential – adding the DOJ had said the royal “is not and has never been a ‘target' of their criminal investigations into Epstein”.

They said they did not intend on making any further public statement to “respect the rules of confidentiality” in England and the US.

‘UPPED THE ANTE’

A source previously told The Sun today: "The Department of Justice has been in contact with Andrew's lawyers for many months.

"But they grew tired and were getting nowhere so they upped the ante."

But a source close to the Duke said: "Legal discussions with the DOJ are subject to strict confidentiality rules, as set out in their own guidelines.

"We have chosen to abide by both the letter and the spirit of these rules, which is why we have made no comment about anything related to the DOJ during the course of this year.

"We believe in playing straight bat."

Until now it was thought he was only likely to be the target of action by Epstein's victims in the US civil courts.

One – Virginia Roberts Giuffre, now 36 – alleges she had sex with Andrew on three occasions between 2001 and 2002, twice while underage. However Andrew denies this.

Overnight, the Sun revealed the US Department of Justice has filed a "mutual legal assistance" (MLA) request to the Home Office.

MLA requests are only used in criminal cases under a legal treaty with the UK.

It means Andrew, who "categorically denies" any wrongdoing, could now be forced to appear in a UK court as a witness within months.

‘DIPLOMATIC NIGHTMARE'

The move also piles pressure on the Duke to give evidence – and on the UK Government to assist.

The Sun understands no decision on the explosive request has yet been made by British officials.

And sources said it was unlikely Andrew would be aware of the MLA request at this stage because countries are legally obliged to keep them secret.

But a source said: "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 DoJ 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 even more so."

The Sun has learned the request was formally lodged by the DoJ last month under the terms of a 1994 MLA treaty.

If granted, US prosecutors would have two options.

The first, typically only used for witnesses to crimes, would see the Duke asked to voluntarily attend an interview and give a signed statement. Crucially, this would NOT be under oath.

But sources say angry American investigators – frustrated at what they see as a lack of cooperation from the Queen's son to date – have the power to pursue an explosive second route.

Rex Features
Andrew claims he has no recollection of ever meeting Virginia Roberts Giuffre and sources close to the Prince have even suggested this photo with his arm around Giuffre at Maxwell's flat could have been faked[/caption]
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Prince Andrew is pictured here with his mother the Queen[/caption]
Rex Features
Epstein was friends with Prince Andrew[/caption]
AFP or licensors
Prince Andrew was forced to step down from his duties amid the controversy[/caption]

That would see Andrew asked to attend London's City of Westminster Magistrates' Court to provide oral or written evidence on oath.

If he refused, the Duke could be forced to attend in person by summons, with DoJ lawyers able to quiz him.

Andrew, unlike the Queen, does not hold sovereign immunity from prosecution.

But any evidence session could be held "in camera" – privately, with no press or public present.

He would still have the right to "take the Fifth" by staying silent to avoid self-incrimination.

Prince Andrew's full statement

In January 2020, Blackfords LLP and instructed counsel, Clare Montgomery QC and Stephen Ferguson, were commissioned to support HRH The Duke of York in his desire to provide cooperation to the US authorities regarding the victims of the late Jeffrey Epstein, should those authorities request his assistance.

The working group is supported by Riverside Advisory on media relations.

To date, we have chosen not to make any public statement regarding our discussions with the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

Our commitment to confidentiality is not only regarded as best practice in the UK but is also intended to respect the DOJ's commitment to confidentiality, as set out in its own rules as they apply to discussions with potential witnesses.

However, in view of misleading media briefings, we owe it to our client to issue this clarifying statement.

As the public record indicates the DOJ has been actively investigating Mr Epstein and other targets for more than 16 years, yet the first time they requested the Duke's help was on 2nd January 2020.

Importantly, the DOJ advised us that the Duke is not and has never been a ‘target' of their criminal investigations into Epstein and that they sought his confidential, voluntary cooperation.

In the course of these discussions, we asked the DOJ to confirm that our co-operation and any interview arrangements would remain confidential, in accordance with the ordinary rules that apply to voluntary co-operation with the DOJ.

We were given an unequivocal assurance that our discussions and the interview process would remain confidential.

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 cooperation.

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

On 27th January 2020, Mr Geoffrey S Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, chose to make a public statement about the Duke.

This led to worldwide media reports that there had been "a wall of silence" and that there had been "zero co-operation" by the Duke.

These statements were inaccurate, and they should not have been made.

On 9th March 2020, Mr Berman made further public statements saying that the Duke had "completely shut the door" on cooperating with the US investigation and that they are now "considering" further options.

Again, the first statement was inaccurate and should not have been made.

It is a matter of regret that the DOJ has seen fit to breach its own rules of confidentiality, not least as they are designed to encourage witness cooperation.

Far from our client acting above the law, as has been implied by press briefings in the US, he is being treated by a lower standard than might reasonably be expected for any other citizen.

Further, those same breaches of confidentiality by the DOJ have given the global media – and, therefore, the worldwide audience – an entirely misleading account of our discussions with them.

Any pursuit of an application for mutual legal assistance would be disappointing, since the Duke of York is not a target of the DOJ investigation and has recently repeated his willingness to provide a witness statement.

It is hoped that this third offer has not been the cause of the most recent leak about the Duke of York.

We do not intend to make any further public statement at this time as we wish to respect the rules of confidentiality under both English law and the US guidelines.

Andrew stepped down as a senior royal after his disastrous Newsnight interview last November.

It aimed to clear the air, but the "car crash" exchange with BBC presenter Emily Maitlis instead has seen his career left in ruins.

During the interview, Andrew said he would help the US investigation if his "legal advice was to do so".

But in January, Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York leading the Epstein inquiry, said the Duke had "provided zero co-operation".

Two months later Mr Berman said the Duke had "now completely shut the door on voluntary co-operation".

ROYAL DENIAL

Alleged victim Virgina Roberts Giuffre says she was trafficked by Epstein to have sex with Andrew in London in 2001.

She described Andrew as "sweating profusely" at Tramp nightclub before having sex at Ghislaine's Mayfair flat.

Andrew later told Newsnight a "peculiar medical condition" meant he did not sweat.

And he insisted he did not go clubbing, claiming he remembered because he had been at Woking Pizza Express earlier that day.

He claims he has no recollection of ever meeting Giuffre and sources close to the Prince have even suggested a photo with his arm around Giuffre at Maxwell's flat could have been faked.

Giuffre also alleges that Epstein paid her around £300 to have sex with Andrew at Epstein's New York mansion.

In evidence to a Florida court in 2015, she claimed to have had an orgy with Andrew and eight other girls at Epstein's private island in the US Virgin Islands.

Epstein was jailed in Florida in 2008 after being convicted for procuring an underage girl for prostitution and soliciting a prostitute.

Timeline of trouble

1999: Andrew introduced to Epstein through Ghislaine Maxwell. He is invited to Balmoral.

2000: Duke joins pair at Donald Trump's Florida resort. Epstein a guest at Windsor Castle.

2001: Virginia Roberts Giuffre, then 17, claims Epstein trafficked her to London where she had sex with Andrew at Ghislaine's flat.

2005: Florida police launch probe into claims Epstein paid underage girls for sex at his home.

2006: Epstein attends Beatrice's 18th party shortly after warrant is issued for his arrest.

2008: Epstein admits prostituting minors and gets 18 months' jail.

2010: Released and Andrew stays at his New York home.

2011: Duke quits as UK trade envoy over Epstein links.

2015: Ms Giuffre names Andrew in legal papers. Claims later struck from US civil court records.

2019: Legal papers reveal Johanna Sjoberg claims royal touched her breast at Epstein's home in 2001.

JULY 2019: Epstein sex trafficking arrest.

AUG 2019: He dies in jail. Andrew "appalled" by claims against his pal, adding "at no stage" did he "see or suspect" any criminal behaviour.

NOV 2019: BBC airs Andrew "car crash" interview. Charities cut ties. He quits as senior royal.

JAN 2020: US prosecutor Geoffrey Berman accuses Andrew of zero cooperation. In March he says royal has "shut the door" on helping.

APRIL 2020: US prosecutors open talks with the Home Office, revealed by The Sun today.

Andrew was pictured staying at the convicted sex offender's New York mansion for three nights later that year.

He claimed he made the trip to end the friendship face-to-face, saying it was a "convenient place to stay".

Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell last August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Handout - Getty
Epstein died in jail while awaiting trial[/caption]


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