Federal prosecutors in the US have issued a formal request to interview Prince Andrew as part of their investigation into convicted sex offender Jeffery Epstein, prompting an angry response from the duke’s legal team.
Officials in New York made the request through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which makes it similar to a subpoena for the prince to provide testimony.
Those behind the move say the decision to use the treaty – which is rarely deployed – is designed to ensure the inquiry into the disgraced billionaire’s history of sexual abuse is as thorough as possible.
But a statement issued by Prince Andrew‘s legal team called the development “disappointing” and claimed the Duke of York had previously offered his assistance to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on three occasions.
“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.
“We were given an unequivocal assurance that our discussions and the interview process would remain confidential.”
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It comes after US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in March that he would consider legal action because, he claimed, the duke’s representatives had ruled out an interview.
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“Contrary to Prince Andrew’s very public offer to cooperate with our investigation into Epstein’s co-conspirators, an offer that was conveyed via press release, Prince Andrew has now completely shut the door on voluntary cooperation,” he said, adding that his office was “considering its options”.
Federal investigators have been trying for months to speak with Andrew, a longtime friend of Epstein’s who has been accused by one woman of sexual abuse.
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Both Andrew and Epstein’s former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, have previously denied any knowledge that Epstein was sexually abusing teenage girls.
Officials ruled that Epstein, 66, killed himself in August while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
Prosecutors accused the politically-connected financier of preying on dozens of underage girls in New York and Florida in the early 2000s.
A lawyer representing five of Epstein’s alleged victims previously told Sky News that Prince Andrew’s failure to co-operate to date had been a “slap in the face” for those women who were abused.
He has largely stepped back from public life, staying home instead of attending the morning Christmas Day service at Sandringham, but was at church with the Queen in mid-January. He also made a rare public appearance in April.
It emerged in May that he was facing legal action over an unpaid bill of £5m.