The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has officially requested to speak to The Duke of York, regarding his relationship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The Americans have submitted a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request to the UK Home Office, to get the Royal to answer their questions.
Under the terms of a MLA request, the BBC explains, if the Duke does not voluntarily respond, he can be called to a UK court to answer questions.
This process, which is usually secret, is used to obtain help in an investigation or prosecution of criminal offences, generally when co-operation cannot be obtained by law enforcement agencies.
“The Duke of York has on at least three occasions this year offered his assistance as a witness to the US Department of Justice,” a statement from his team at Blackfords LLP said.
“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.”
The Duke, 65, had said he did not regret his friendship with Epstein in the TV interview, and denied having sex with Virginia Giuffre, who would have been underage at the time of the alleged encounter.
Shortly after the interview was broadcast, Prince Andrew said he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency”.
Geoffrey Berman the lead prosecutor on the Epstein case claimed back in January that the Prince had provided ‘zero cooperation’. Two months later he claimed The Queen’s son had “completely shut the door” on assisting the investigation.
Epstein died in custody last year, with the coroner ruling it suicide, as he awaited trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges in New York.
Andrew’s team called the request as ‘disappointing’ because The Duke of York was ‘not a target of the DoJ investigation and has recently repeated his willingness to provide a witness statement’.
His lawyers, Clare Montgomery QC and Stephen Ferguson, said they had chosen not to make any comment about their dealings with the DoJ until now, but had in view of misleading media briefings’, which they call ‘inaccurate’, felt it a necessary step.
“We asked the DoJ to confirm that our co-operation and any interview arrangements would remain confidential, in accordance with the ordinary rules that apply to voluntary co-operation with the DoJ.
“We were given an unequivocal assurance that our discussions and the interview process would remain confidential.”
“Far from our client [Prince Andrew] 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.”
There has been no official response or comment from the DoJ as of yet.
US Attorney Geoffrey Berman has said that Prince Andrew made it clear four months ago that he would not be interviewed. “Our doors remain open,” he commented, “and we await word of when we should expect him.”
— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) June 8, 2020