Britain’s disgraced Prince Andrew is facing mounting calls to provide information to U.S. law enforcement agencies and lawyers who are investigating crimes committed by American sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and his associates.
Lawyers for Epstein’s victims believe Prince Andrew may have valuable information about the late financier’s sex offences. When Epstein died in August, he was facing charges of trafficking in underage girls who provided sexual favours to the powerful men visiting his luxury properties in the Caribbean and elsewhere.
The 59-year-old prince stepped down from his royal duties on Wednesday with the approval of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, after a weekend interview in which he tried to justify his well-documented ties to Epstein backfired spectacularly.
Charities and British educational institutions that had fundraising ties to Prince Andrew — the royal website lists dozens — had quickly begun to question if he could actually hurt their brands.
Prince Andrew still may face legal questioning about allegations that he had sex with a girl provided by Epstein when she was just 17, a charge he has denied and that she insists is true.
LISTEN BELOW: Global News Europe correspondent Redmond Shannon joins the Ryan Jespersen on 630 CHED to discuss the impact of Prince Andrew taking a step back
U.S. attorney Gloria Allred, who represents some of the women abused by Epstein, said Thursday that Prince Andrew should contact American authorities “without conditions and without delay.”
Prince Andrew announced in his statement Wednesday that he is “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required” but did not volunteer to provide evidence.
It is not clear if U.S. authorities are investigating Prince Andrew for any possible wrongdoing. Many of the court papers related to the Epstein case are still sealed and unavailable to the public.
British legal experts, meanwhile, are divided over whether Prince Andrew enjoys immunity from prosecution as a senior British royal.
Some say Prince Andrew should reach out to U.S. officials in an effort clear his name rather than wait for a subpoena or legal action that would force him to testify, which could happen if U.S. officials working through the U.S. embassy in London ask Britain’s Foreign Office to secure Prince Andrew’s co-operation.
British lawyer Mark Stephens said Prince Andrew will eventually have to testify under oath to answer Virginia Giuffre’s charge that she was encouraged to have sex with Prince Andrew three times when she was 17.
“The question is where he answers,” Stephens said. “There is no reason why the FBI or, indeed, the lawyers for Virginia Roberts couldn’t come to the U.K. to take his evidence.”
Stephens said it was doubtful that Andrew could provide useful evidence on other cases related to Epstein’s crimes, which have led to a number of civil suits against his estate.
“There are much better witnesses,” he said. “What could he say that couldn’t be said by witnesses that went more frequently, the staff at any of his homes, for example, and the people close to him, the fixers? Those are the people with really probative evidence.”
Epstein, 66, died on Aug. 10 while in jail on sex-trafficking charges in what New York’s medical examiner ruled was a suicide.
France also has an open investigation into sex claims against an Epstein associate.
In his interview with the BBC on Saturday, Prince Andrew denied having sex with Giuffre, saying he didn’t remember meeting her despite a published photograph that appears to show the prince with his arm around her.
He said he regrets not cutting ties with Epstein after the financier pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida under a deal that required him to serve 13 months in jail and register as a sex offender.
But the prince notably failed to express any sympathy for Epstein’s victims. And he defended his previous friendship with the billionaire investor because of the contacts it provided when Prince Andrew was preparing for a role as Britain’s special trade representative.
The scandal over Prince Andrew’s ties to Epstein has blossomed into the biggest challenge for Britain’s monarchy since the 1997 death of Princess Diana, when the Queen was accused of appearing aloof and out of touch amid an outpouring of national mourning for the popular royal with the common touch.
Prince Andrew’s decision to withdraw from public life came after he consulted his mother, the 93-year-old monarch, who has not commented on the matter.
Andrew is the Queen’s third child and second son. His older brother, Prince Charles, is heir to the throne, but Prince Andrew is eighth in line, after Prince Charles’ sons and grandchildren.
Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, said it’s possible that Prince Andrew may be rehabilitated in the future if he is able to establish his innocence beyond any shadow of doubt.
“Clearly, this has to take a legal route, some sort of consultation with the FBI or somebody in an attempt to clear his name,” Little said. “It remains to be seen if that will ever be possible, and that process could take a very long time.”
He said in the meantime, Prince Andrew will continue to have a place at family events like the Queen’s Christmas celebrations at her rural retreat in Sandringham. He does not expect Prince Andrew to be strapped for cash because the prince is expected to continue to receive funds from the Queen’s private accounts.
“It’s unprecedented,” Little said of the scandal. “It’s a big deal for somebody so close to the Queen to be humiliated and disgraced in such a way.”
Prince Andrew has served as a patron or been involved in dozens of charitable roles that will now be eliminated as he begins a new phase without royal duties. He is also expected to give up his ceremonial military posts.
Buckingham Palace said Prince Andrew will continue to work on his flagship Pitch@Palace project but will do so on a private basis without financial help from the palace.
Prince Andrew’s woes have provided plenty of fodder for Republic, an anti-monarchist movement that wants Britain to elect its head of state rather than put the monarch in that role.
“This whole episode shows why the monarchy is not fit for purpose,” said Graham Smith, the leader of Republic.
“Andrew is the worst example of a long tradition of bad behaviour. We need a democratic alternative to the monarchy sooner rather than later.”
© 2019 The Canadian Press