T he Duke of York on Tuesday night hit back at the FBI, claiming he had received no request to speak to them about Jeffrey Epstein as victims urged him to “stop playing games” and assist the investigation.
, was said to be “angry and bewildered” at claims that he had refused to cooperate with US prosecutors
about the convicted pedophile.
“Nothing could be further from the truth” a source close to him said.
“The Duke is more than happy to talk to the FBI but he hasn’t been approached by them yet.
“He is angry about the way this is being portrayed and bewildered as to why this was said in New York. It seems certain People are jumping the gun. ”
The source insisted that the Duke remained willing to assist the investigation and as such, had been holding weekly meetings with his lawyers at Royal Lodge, his Windsor home, and at Buckingham Palace in preparation.
His intervention came after US prosecutors heaped public pressure on the Duke by announcing he had provided “zero cooperation” to their requests for an interview.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman Credit: Craig Ruttle
T he Duke’s comments prompted a stand-off with prosecutors, who insisted that they had approached his legal team more than once.
A source revealed that they had circumvented the usual route of making contact via the US embassy, telling the Telegraph: “I believe this was an attempt by the US office and the FBI to contact his legal team directly. More than once. “A spokesman for US attorney’s office in New York said:” In light of the statement Prince Andrew issued I just feel it’s appropriate to say we’ve made several attempts to contact his representatives. “
Royal sources branded the move a “publicity stunt” designed to pile on public pressure and force his hand. But one admitted that the Duke could not ignore the scandal and that it was hoped he would comply.
The Duke recently engaged a leading team of criminal lawyers who are painstakingly going through the details of the case as they consider how to react .
The source added: “The Duke accepts he made a big mistake by continuing to see Epstein after he was convicted, and for not showing sufficient empathy for the girls involved.
“He is desperate to make up for it and is committed to the legal process.
“He also wants to clear things up so that he can continue to support the Queen in her hour of need.
“She has obviously had a bad year with Prince Philip frail at and Harry and Meghan leaving for Canada.
“The Duke has always been the Queen’s favorite and she is relying on him a lot behind the scenes.”
B ut while the Queen is said to be concerned about her son, palace aides were quick to distance her from the ongoing crisis, pointing out that the Duke was no longer a working royal and was effectively operating in silo.
“Whether or not he cooperates with the FBI is a matter for Prince Andrew and his lawyers alone,” one said firmly.
The Duke’s new legal team is thought to have been acquired in the wake of his disastrous Newsnight interview about his friendship with Epstein, the convicted paedophile, and Miss Roberts Giuffre’s claims.
T he Duke has vehemently denied the allegations, telling the BBC that he has no recollection of ever meeting Ms Roberts Giuffre.
But pressure is mounting on him to assist the US investigation into Epstein’s crimes.
Geoffrey Berman, a US prosecutor, said on Monday that both federal prosecutors and the FBI had asked to interview the Duke about Epstein but had received no response, despite his pledge to cooperate with the investigation.
“The Southern District of New York and the FBI have contacted Prince Andrew’s attorneys and requested to interview Prince Andrew, and to date, Prince Andrew has provided zero cooperation, ”he said.
L) egal advisors said the Duke was under no obligation to assist the FBI or lawyers representing Epstein’s accusers.
However, under the terms of “Mutual Legal Assistance” they can issue a formal request through the Home Office for a witness to give a deposition in the UK, which would usually involve giving evidence before a judge via videolink or at a magistrate’s court in private.
L) isa Bloom, who represents five of Epstein’s alleged victims, said it was time for him to “do the right thing”.
She said: “Push has come to shove. There are dozens of women who allege they were the victims of sexual assault by this predator Jeffrey Epstein.
“It is time for anyone with information to come forward and answer questions.
“Prince Andrew himself is accused of sexual misconduct and he also spent a great deal of time with Jeffrey Epstein.
“So, it’s time to stop playing games and to come forward to do the right thing and answer questions.”
Gloria Allred, who represents five further accusers, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “If he has done nothing wrong, which appears to be what he has claimed, then why won’t he talk to law enforcement?
“No response is the same as zero cooperation. This is ridiculous. It’s just not acceptable.”
I t is unclear how prosecutors have made representations to the Duke’s lawyers, which would typically be done via a legal attache at the US embassy in London. The embassy declined to comment on Tuesday.