Boris Johnson has said no official approach has been made by the US authorities to speak to Prince Andrew about his links to the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
While insisting it was a matter for the Royal Family, the prime minister said that “the law must be carried out and the law must be observed” when he was questioned about the affair.
His comments came after a source close to the Duke of York said he is “bewildered” by claims made by US authorities that he has not offered to co-operate with the Epstein case.
Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, has told a press conference the authorities would “welcome” a statement from the duke in relation to the investigation as his socialite friend Ghislaine Maxwell appeared in court accused of luring underage girls so they could be sexually abused by Epstein.
Speaking to LBC Radio, Mr Johnson said: “Everybody’s sympathies are very much with the victims of Jeffrey Epstein but you wouldn’t expect me to comment on matters affecting the Royal Family.”
Pressed over his response if US officials sought to speak to the prince, Mr Johnson said: “No such approach has been made. It’s a matter for the Royal Family.
“The law must be carried out and the law must be observed.”
More from Jeffrey Epstein
Prince Andrew ‘bewildered’ by claims he hasn’t offered to cooperate with Epstein investigation
Ghislaine Maxwell played ‘critical role’ in helping Jeffrey Epstein groom underage victims, US investigators say
Geoffrey Berman: Prosecutor leading investigation into Prince Andrew’s links with Epstein refuses to resign
Virginia Roberts Giuffre: Prince Andrew accuser calls him a ‘toad’ over TV interview ‘regret’
Prince Andrew’s charity ‘broke law’ by paying trustee £350,000, watchdog says
Prince Andrew won’t be extradited to US over Jeffrey Epstein, says attorney general
The Duke of York has previously claimed to have offered to speak to investigators three times in the face of US accusations that he has consistently been unwilling to co-operate.
Prince Andrew has known Maxwell, the British socialite and daughter of media tycoon Robert Maxwell, since her university days.
It was through her that he was introduced to Epstein in 1999, which led the disgraced financier to spend time at royal properties, including Windsor Castle and Sandringham.
Following her arrest and court appearance, prosecutors say Maxwell, a former girlfriend and long-time associate of Epstein, faces up to 35 years in jail if she is found guilty.
The 58-year-old was described as a flight risk during the hearing, and was ordered to remain in custody while she is transferred to New York for a detention hearing.
Maxwell, who has kept a low profile since Epstein’s death in August last year, was arrested by the FBI in New Hampshire on Thursday.
She is accused of helping the disgraced financier “identify, befriend and groom” multiple girls, including one as young as 14.
Maxwell has previously denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of sexual misconduct by Epstein.
The disgraced financier took his own life in prison last year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.
One alleged victim of Epstein, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has claimed that Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Prince Andrew at her London townhouse.
The Duke of York categorically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Ms Roberts.
Maxwell is charged with four criminal counts related to procuring and transporting minors for illegal sex acts and two of perjury, according to the indictment.
Who’s who in the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal?
Ms Strauss claimed she had helped Epstein to exploit underage girls – and “in some cases” would participate in the abuse herself.
“Maxwell was among Epstein’s closest associates and helped him exploit girls who were as young as 14 years old,” she told reporters.
“Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse.”
Ms Strauss said Maxwell had “repeatedly lied” about her involvement because the truth was “almost unspeakable”.
Lawyer Brad Edwards, who represents dozens of Epstein’s alleged victims, says they are relieved following Maxwell’s arrest.
Ghislaine Maxwell: The British socialite, tycoon’s daughter and friend of Jeffrey Epstein
He said: “It’s a long time coming and I’ve spoken with my clients today, some of whom had a lot of interactions with Ghislaine, and others who have none.
“But either way, all of them were extremely relieved. And to understand the importance of this particular arrest.”
And he says he does not think Maxwell’s arrest will be the last.
“I think that you’re going to see other people that along the way helped to facilitate enable these types of crimes to be committed. And I would not be surprised if some of these other people get indicted,” Mr Edwards added.