Prince Andrew is “bewildered” by claims he is stonewalling a US investigation into the alleged sex trafficking of minors by British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell and the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, his legal team said Friday.
The daughter of the late newspaper baron Robert Maxwell is believed to have introduced Andrew to Epstein — a convicted paedophile — and US authorities want to speak to the prince about their relationship.
Maxwell was arrested and charged by US authorities on Thursday after spending months living in seclusion. She faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
Epstein committed suicide in jail while awaiting trial last year and Queen Elizabeth II’s second son quit his royal duties after he defended his relationship with the late financier.
Andrew has since faced claims from US prosecutors that he is avoiding their requests for a face-to-face interview.
“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,” an unnamed source on his legal team was quoted as saying by the Press Association news agency.
– ‘More excuses’ –
Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss told reporters on Thursday she would “welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us”.
“We would like to have the benefit of his statement,” she added.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the British government had not been approached by US authorities with requests to either assist their investigation or to help arrange an interview with the prince.
“No such approach has been made. It’s a matter for the royal family,” he told LBC radio.
“Were it to be made… it would be a matter for the British government,” said Johnson. “Of course, the law must be carried out and the law must be observed.”
The 60-year-old Duke of York has strenuously denied claims he had sex with a 17-year-old girl procured by Epstein.
Pictures of him posing with his arm around the girl’s waist forced Andrew to give a disastrous TV interview to the BBC in November that was quickly followed by his standing down from all royal duties.
A lawyer who represents some of Epstein’s alleged victims told British television on Friday that the prince was “avoiding and evading” the US authorities.
“More excuses, more delays, it really is painful for many of the victims. It’s just not fair,” lawyer Gloria Allred told ITV.
Another lawyer representing the alleged victims said Andrew’s royal connections were helping him avoid facing justice.
“He has been hiding behind not only the royal family but his attorneys,” lawyer Spencer Coogan told BBC radio.
A US attorney for the Southern District of New York said last month that Andrew had “repeatedly declined our request to schedule” an interview. AFP