Saturday, 2 Mar 2024

Prince Andrew files locked away until 2065 as ‘culture of secrecy’ slammed

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Files relating to Prince Andrew and his conduct will not be released by the Foreign Office until 2065, according to a Government response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request put in by royal biographer Andrew Lownie.

The Duke, who was forced to quit as a working member of the Royal Family following allegations about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, will therefore likely avoid any public scrutiny of the files himself, unless he lives to be 105.

Andrew has vehemently and consistently denied allegations from Virginia Giuffre that he sexually assaulted her at the age of 17, after she had been trafficked into the UK by Mr Epstein, who died in prison in 2019.

Mr Lownie, who is currently planning to write his next book on the Prince, criticised the lack of information on Andrew’s affairs as he sought clarification on the business trips Andrew undertook while he was the UK’s special representative for trade and industry envoy.

He told The Telegraph there was a “culture of secrecy” surrounding royal correspondence, adding that the Firm should still be “subject to scrutiny” as everyone else is.

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Mr Lownie said: “Members of the Royal Family are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act but I would hope with a new reign that only pertinent FOI exemptions such as national security, relations with another country, information given in confidence etc will be applied alongside data protection considerations.

“We are in the absurd position that Prince Harry can reveal the most intimate details of royal life from months ago for personal commercial gain and Royal households currently brief against each other, yet historians cannot look at files.”

He added that it was “extraordinary” that the files will not be made available until 2065, as he acknowledged the “public interest” in investigating Andrew’s dealings.

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The biographer explained: “Many questions remain about his role as trade envoy, a public appointment paid for by the taxpayer, and his associations with figures such as Jeffrey Epstein.

“There is also a strong public interest in knowing, for example, who is paying for his security now he is no longer a working royal.”

The royals are given special dispensation when it comes to the release of information, as records transferred to The National Archives at Kew from government departments are usually kept secret for only 20 years.

The 63-year-old Duke was the UK’s special representative for trade and industry envoy from 2001, however he was forced to resign in 2011 after images of him meeting with Epstein emerged, shortly after the billionaire had served 18 months for sexual offences.

He was also under scrutiny for his “very close” friendship with Saif Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and Tarek Kaituni, a convicted Libyan gun smuggler.

In spite of stepping away from public life, Andrew still lives at Royal Lodge with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, having resided there for 20 years.

He also seems to have been making his way back into the royal circle, as he was seen at Balmoral with King Charles, Queen Camilla, Prince William and Princess Kate at the end of last month.

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