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US prosecutor says Prince Andrew has 'falsely' claimed he tried to help sex trafficking investigation

Lawyers for the prince had said the royal had offered assistance at least three times this year.

Image: PA Images

PRINCE ANDREW IS wrong to claim that he has made repeated offers to help US authorities investigating Jeffrey Epstein, a New York prosecutor has said.

Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, hit back at lawyers for the prince, who said the royal had offered assistance at least three times this year.

“Today, Prince Andrew yet again sought to falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to cooperate with an ongoing federal investigation into sex trafficking and related offences committed by Jeffrey Epstein and his associates,” Berman said.

It is the latest salvo in ongoing accounts by prosecutors and the prince, whose public life was left in tatters after his disastrous interview about his friendship with Epstein – a convicted sex offender – last year.

Four days after last year’s Newsnight interview, Andrew said in a statement he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required”.

Berman, who is leading the Epstein inquiry, told reporters in March:

Contrary to Prince Andrew’s very public offer to co-operate 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 co-operation and our office is considering its options.

Earlier, it emerged that the US Department of Justice submitted a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request to the UK’s Home Office to question Andrew as a witness in a criminal investigation into the disgraced financier’s offending.

An MLA request made by foreign countries is a formal process used to obtain help in an investigation or prosecution of criminal offences, generally when co-operation cannot be obtained by law enforcement agencies.

The process is normally secret but with reports on both side of the Atlantic about the request Andrew’s legal team stressed its “commitment to confidentiality” and went on to make accusations of “misleading media briefings” against US prosecutors.

The Duke of York’s legal team hit back at allegations that he provided “zero co-operation” to US authorities investigating Epstein, instead claiming he has made three offers of help.

“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,” a statement said.

It added: “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.”

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It comes just weeks after a Netflix documentary on Epstein was released featuring Virginia Giuffre, also known as Virginia Roberts, who has alleged she had sex with the Duke of York in 2001 after being trafficked to the UK by the American.

Giuffre has urged Andrew to speak to authorities but a US lawyer said in March that the duke had “completely shut the door” on co-operating with investigators over the probe.

The duke categorically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Ms Giuffre.

She also alleges the duke had sex with her on three separate occasions, including when she was 17, still a minor under US law. She said in an interview with BBC Panorama that she was left “horrified and ashamed” after an alleged sexual encounter with Andrew in London in 2001.

Contains reporting from© AFP 2020.

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