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Prince Andrew addresses Jeffrey Epstein 'sex slave' claims at Davos: 'My focus is on my work'

BY ANDREW BUNCOMBE, JAMES ASHTON , ROBERT JOBSON IN DAVOS

Prince Andrew has spoken out in public for the first time to deny allegations that he had sex with a teenage girl who was a ‘slave’ of the wealthy American Jeffrey Epstein.

Following two statements issued by Buckingham Palace that “categorically” denied the allegations, the prince addressed a meeting at Davos.

“I just wish to reiterate and reaffirm the statements that have been made on my behalf,” he told around 200 people gathered on Thursday evening. “My focus is on my work.”

The prince, 54, appeared for the first time at the Davos Congress Centre on Thursday lunchtime. He is determined to show he has not been too damaged by the affair by continuing with his work. He stepped down as a UK trade envoy four years ago and is in Switzerland in a private capacity, not officially representing the Queen or working for the Government.

The prince hosted a Pitch@Palace event the Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvédère, where three start-up firms presented their business ideas. Chairmen and chief executives who attended were in broad support of his work promoting British business.

However, one boss said earlier he was surprised the prince had decided to attend. He said: “It is a bad call for him to be here. It is just a distraction. I would have understood if the event had been cancelled and it wouldn't have been seen as a signal of anything.”

The prince’s decision to speak out came as the woman at the centre of the under-age sex allegations, Virginia Roberts, issued fresh documents repeating the allegations against him in US court papers. She claimed he had sex with her on three occasions when she was 17, which is under-age in Florida, where the court papers were filed.

Now 31, Ms Roberts claims she was forced to have sex with the prince by his former friend, the billionaire convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who paid her to “service” his friends.

Buckingham Palace has repeatedly strenuously rejected claims the duke had any “sexual contact or relationship” with Miss Roberts. The prince is not facing legal proceedings over the US claims. It is not known if he is covered by legal immunity as a royal but he could be entitled to diplomatic immunity against questioning because some claims relate to when he was a Whitehall-sanctioned envoy.

The prince’s party has long been a fixture in the Davos calendar. Invitations for the event, sponsored by consulting group KPMG and drinks giant Diageo, were sent out before Christmas.

The WEF event is a magnet for the world’s rich and powerful. Bankers, chief executives and senior politicians mingle in the mountain resort for four days each January. George Osborne, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, China’s premier Li Keqiang, Francois Hollande of France, Sir Richard Branson, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Banco Santander chairman Ana Botin and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde have all put in appearances. Rapper Will.i.am, Pharrell Williams and Andrea Bocelli have added so showbiz glitz.

The prince has come to town on one of the biggest nights of the gathering. The hottest ticket was to the Google party, held at the Davos InterContinental, also known locally as the Golden Egg because of its oval shape. Music was supplied by Paloma Faith and a menu devised by chef Yotam Ottolenghi.

Further reading

Lawyer named in Prince Andrew 'sex slave' allegations: 'I was never in the presence of a single underage woman' 

Andrew asked for sex claim response

Under fire Andy will feel at home among Davos elite

Prince Andrew sex allegations: Documents about prince’s support for Jeffrey Epstein ‘concealed’ 

Prince of scandal: Duke of York's hefty list of bloopers

'Resilient' Prince Andrew to focus on work in wake of sex claims 

 

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