Prince Andrew and his legal team are “bewildered” over claims by U.S. authorities that he has failed to cooperate with the investigation into Jeffrey Epstein, a source close to the royal has said.
It comes after the arrest of Epstein’s ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell on suspicion of grooming children.
Speaking after the British socialite was detained on Thursday, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss said they would “welcome” talks with the Duke of York.
“We would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us,” she said at a press conference. “Our doors remain open.”
Prince Andrew has been locked in a long-running battle with law enforcement in the U.S. over his availability to answer questions about his former friend and convicted sex offender Epstein.
In June, he was accused of attempting to “falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to co-operate” by Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. prosecutor leading the investigation into Epstein at the time, who had previously said the royal had “completely shut the door” on helping investigators.
But the duke’s legal team say he has made three separate offers this year to give a witness statement, and a royal source has described Berman’s actions as “frankly bewildering” and a breach of confidentiality rules, PA Media reported.
Acting U.S. attorney for the district Audrey Strauss struck a milder tone on Thursday when she told reporters she would simply “welcome” a statement from the Queen’s son at a press conference announcing charges against Maxwell, including allegations she participated in the abuse of young girls by Epstein.
“I’m not going to comment on anyone’s status in this investigation but I will say that we would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us, we would like to have the benefit of his statement,” she said.
A source close to the duke’s working group told the PA news agency and BBC News: “The duke’s team remains bewildered given that we have twice communicated with the DOJ in the last month and to date we have had no response.”
In June, a spat was sparked after details emerged of America’s Department of Justice’s (DOJ) mutual legal assistance (MLA) request to the Home Office, to quiz Andrew as a witness in the criminal investigation into Epstein’s offending.
The duke’s legal team said in its statement: “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 co-operation. In doing so, they are perhaps seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered.”
On Friday, Spencer Coogan, the lawyer for some of Epstein’s alleged victims, also called on the Duke of York to speak to U.S. prosecutors about his friendship with Epstein.
He told BBC’s Radio 4 Today program: “I certainly think Prince Andrew has a story to tell. On behalf of the victims we have continuously asked him to step forward, step up, be a man and tell us what he knows.
“He has been hiding behind not only the royal family but his attorneys.”
Prince Andrew stepped down from royal duties in November last year, shortly after a Newsnight interview about his friendship with Epstein.