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Prince Andrew ‘falsely portraying himself as eager to cooperate’ in Epstein investigation, US lawyer says

The Independent logo The Independent 08/06/2020 Zoe Tidman
Prince Andrew, Duke of York wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The Independent

Prince Andrew has tried to “falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to cooperate”, according to a US lawyer involved in the Jeffrey Epstein investigation.

His comments came after the Duke of York’s lawyers claimed the prince had offered to serve as a witness at least three times this year.

Geoffrey Berman, who is leading the probe into sex trafficking allegations against Epstein and others, claimed a request to arrange an interview has repeatedly been turned down.

“Today, Prince Andrew yet again sought to falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to cooperate with an ongoing federal criminal investigation into sex trafficking and related offences committed by Jeffrey Epstein and his associates,” the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York said on Monday.

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“The prince has not given an interview to federal authorities, has repeatedly declined our request to schedule such an interview, and nearly four months ago informed us unequivocally ... that he would not come in for such an interview.”

He added: “If Prince Andrew is, in fact, serious about cooperating with the ongoing federal investigation, our doors remain open, and we await word of when we should expect him.”

Mr Berman was responding to a statement the Duke of York’s lawyers put out on Monday, claiming the prince has offered to help with the investigation three times this year.

“Unfortunately, the DOJ [US Department of Justice] has reacted to the first two offers by breaching their own confidentiality rules and claiming that the duke has offered zero co-operation,” Blackfords LLP said.

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

The US justice department has submitted a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request to the Home Office to quiz the Queen’s son as a witness in the probe into Epstein, who died in prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

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, Prince Andrew’s legal team stressed its “commitment to confidentiality” and went on to make accusations of “misleading media briefings” against US prosecutors.

The statement said: “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.”

Mr Berman, the lawyer leading the Epstein investigation, said at the start of the year US authorities had seen “zero co-operation” from Prince Andrew.

He told reporters in March the prince had “completely shut the door on voluntary cooperation”, adding: “Our office is considering its options.”

Prince Andrew stepped away from his royal duties last year after his widely criticised Newsnight interview, during which he was quizzed about his friendship with Epstein and accusations he slept with one of the disgraced financier’s alleged trafficking victims.

Virginia Giuffre has alleged the duke had sex with her on three separate occasions, including when she was 17 while she was still a minor under US law.

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

Additional reporting by Press Association

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