Monday, 28 Sep 2020

Prince Andrew ‘rejected friend’s advice’ to cut off all Epstein ties: ‘You’re a puritan!’

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Epstein was arrested last July on charges relating to sex trafficking and the sexual abuse of young women and girls, but he killed himself in prison before his trial. His ex-girlfriend and longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell was then arrested last month, on multiple charges relating to Epstein’s crimes. Her arrest was part of the US authorities’ investigation into Epstein’s alleged international sex trafficking ring.

As the friend who introduced Epstein and Prince Andrew, in around 1999, her upcoming trial has increased the public scrutiny surrounding the Duke of York.

Andrew has been asked to assist the investigation as a witness, and claims he and his team have offered to help on three occasions.

Andrew has also been criticised for maintaining his friendship with Epstein for years, even after he was first investigated for sexual abuse allegations in 2005.

An acquaintance told Vanity Fair last year that they had tried to persuade the royal to end the association with Epstein.

They explained: “After Jeffrey was convicted, I phoned Andrew and told him: ‘You cannot have a relationship with Jeffrey.’

“He said: ‘Stop giving me a hard time. You’re such a puritan.’

“From there, our conversation descended into a screaming match and finally Andrew said: ‘Leave me alone. Jeffrey’s my friend. Being loyal to your friends is a virtue. And I’m going to be loyal to him.’”

Andrew’s representatives have declined to comment on the reported conversation – from 2011, when Epstein had been released from prison.

Epstein first became a cause for concern in 2005, when the US authorities raided his Palm Beach home in 2005 following allegations that he had sexually abused underage girls.

Then in 2008, his lawyers struck up a plea deal, whereby he pleaded guilty to the solicitation of prostituion and solicitation of minors to engage in prostitution.

In exchange, he was given an 18-month prison sentence.

During his BBC Newsnight interview last November, Andrew said they did briefly stop communication while the case was ongoing.

He said: “I ceased contact with him after I was aware that he was under investigation and that was later in 2006 and I wasn’t in touch with him again until 2010.

“So it was just one of those things that somebody’s going through, that sort of thing, well I’m terrible sorry I can’t be… see[ing] you.”

Interviewer Emily Maitlis asked: “So no contact?”

Andrew replied: “No contact.”

The Duke of York then said that there was “no call, no letter, nothing” during this period.

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Epstein was released in July 2010, after serving 13 months and Andrew was then pictured in December that same year staying at Epstein’s New York mansion.

He told Newsnight: “Ever since this has happened and since this has become, as it were, public knowledge that I was there, I’ve questioned myself as to why did I go and what was I doing and was it the right thing to do?

“Now, I went there with the sole purpose of saying to him that because he had been convicted, it was inappropriate for us to be seen together.

“And I had a number of people counsel me in both directions, either to go and see him or not to go and see him and I took the judgement call that because this was serious, and I felt that doing it over the telephone was the chicken’s way of doing it.

“I had to go and see him and talk to him.”

He said that during his stay in New York, he told Epstein that it was not “appropriate that we should remain in contact” during a walk in Central Park.

He added that he was invited to a dinner while he was in New York, and stayed with Epstein for several days.

Andrew explained: “At the time, I felt it was the honourable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgement was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that’s just the way it is.”

Yet the interview received a huge wave of public backlash and pushed Andrew to release a statement which explained he was stepping back from the royal frontline.

He admitted that “the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein” were “a major disruption” to the Royal Family.

He also added that he “unequivocally regret my ill-judged association” with the convicted sex offender, and extended his sympathy to his victims.

Andrew himself has been accused of having sex with the then 17-year-old Virginia Roberts on three separate occasions around 2001.

She claims she was being trafficking by Epstein and Ms Maxwell at the time, but Buckingham Palace has denied all allegations.

A spokesman stated: “Any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.

“It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts.

“Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.”

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