US authorities have formally requested Prince Andrew answer questions as a witness in a criminal probe into sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, according to reports.
The Department of Justice has submitted a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request to the Home Office as federal prosecutors investigate disgraced financier Epstein’s offending, the Sun newspaper and US broadcasters reported.
It comes just weeks after a Netflix documentary on Epstein was released featuring Virginia Giuffre, also known as Virginia Roberts, who has alleged she had sex with the Duke of York in 2001 after being trafficked to the UK by the American.
Ms Giuffre has urged Andrew to speak to authorities but a US lawyer said in March that the duke had “completely shut the door” on co-operating with investigators over the probe.
The duke categorically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Ms Giuffre.
Andrew stepped away from royal duties following his disastrous Newsnight interview in November about his relationship with Epstein, who killed himself in his jail cell while awaiting trial for sex trafficking.
Four days after last year’s Newsnight interview, the duke said in a statement he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required”.
But Geoffrey Berman, who is leading the Epstein inquiry, told reporters in March: “Contrary to Prince Andrew’s very public offer to co-operate with our investigation into Epstein’s co-conspirators, an offer that was conveyed via press release, Prince Andrew has now completely shut the door on voluntary co-operation and our office is considering its options.”
Ms Giuffre alleges the duke had sex with her on three separate occasions, including when she was 17, still a minor under US law.
Ms Giuffre also said in an interview with BBC Panorama that she was left “horrified and ashamed” after an alleged sexual encounter with Andrew in London in 2001.
MLA requests by other states are used to obtain assistance in an investigation or prosecution of criminal offences, generally when cooperation cannot be obtained by law enforcement agencies.
According to Home Office guidance, it is “usual policy” that the existence of a request is neither confirmed or denied.