Prince Andrew has accused US prosecutors of seeking publicity instead of answers, claiming he has offered to help their investigation into Jeffrey Epstein on three occasions – and been ignored.
The Duke of York has issued a rare and fiery rebuttal to claims from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that he has failed to co-operate with their inquiries in the Epstein case.
It comes amid reports American authorities have filed a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request to the UK Home Office.
Disgraced financier Epstein killed himself in prison in New York while awaiting trial for sex trafficking offences.
In a statement, the duke’s lawyers said: “The Duke of York has on at least three occasions this year offered his assistance as a witness to the DOJ.
“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 proffered.”
Andrew’s legal team said they spoke to authorities in the US in January, shortly after the first requests were made for the duke’s help.
They said they secured confirmation that “our co-operation and any interview arrangements would remain confidential”.
The team also pointed out that Epstein was being investigated for 16 years, and that no mention of speaking to Prince Andrew was made until 2020.
In the statement, Andrew’s lawyers accused the DOJ of breaching its own rules and say two statements made about him were “inaccurate” and “should not have been made”.
The statement also said: “Importantly, the DOJ advised us that the Duke is not and has never been a ‘target’ of their criminal investigations into Epstein and that they sought his confidential, voluntary co- operation.”
The team added: “Far from our client acting above the law, as has been implied by press briefings in the US, he is being treated by a lower standard than might reasonably be expected for any other citizen.
“Further, those same breaches of confidentiality by the DOJ have given the global media – and, therefore, the worldwide audience – an entirely misleading account of our discussions with them.”
Addressing the reports of the MLA, the legal team 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.
“It is hoped that this third offer has not been the cause of the most recent leak about the Duke of York.”
Prince Andrew has been accused by Virginia Giuffre, who says she was trafficked by Epstein when she was a teenager, of having sex with her three times.
One of those occasions was when she was a minor in US law.
Andrew denies any wrongdoing.
The prince’s statement also comes after Harry Dunn’s father said a deal involving the Duke of York and his son’s alleged killer is a “no brainer”.
Anne Sacoolas was charged with causing death by dangerous driving after teenager Harry was knocked off his motorcycle outside the US military base in Northamptonshire in August last year.
An extradition request submitted by the Home Office was refused the following month – a decision described by the US State Department as “final”. However the idea that Prince Andrew could effectively be swapped for Sacoolas has been mentioned on several occasions by legal teams.
Andrew stepped back from his role as a senior royal in November last year after a disastrous interview with BBC Newsnight in which he indicated he did not regret his friendship with Epstein.
Andrew stayed at the disgraced financier’s home in New York after the American spent time in jail when he was convicted of sex offences.