A public dispute has exploded between US authorities and lawyers for UK Prince Andrew about whether the British royal will provide a legal interview about his relationship with the late US sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
Prince Andrew's lawyers broke months of silence on June 8 issuing a statement accusing the US Justice Department of breaching its own confidentiality rules and refusing the duke's offers to be interviewed.More: UK gov't in u-turn over flying flags for Prince Andrew's birthday Prince Andrew did not cooperate with FBI in Epstein probe: Source Prince Andrew's alleged sexual assault victim seeks UK support
The lead US prosecutor investigating the Epstein case, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, responded that Prince Andrew, through his lawyers, had repeatedly declined to be interviewed.
The dispute has drawn in US Attorney General William Barr, the top US law enforcement official, who was asked in a television interview whether the Department of Justice would seek to have Prince Andrew turned over to US authorities.
"I don't think it's a question of handing him over," Barr told Fox News. "I think it's just a question of having him provide some evidence."'Very little credibility'
Prince Andrew has relinquished public roles in the UK after details of his relationship with Epstein came to light last year. Epstein died in prison in 2019 after he was re-arrested on federal charges of sex trafficking underage girls.
Gloria Allred, a US lawyer representing some of Epstein's victims, told the BBC on Tuesday "Prince Andrew at this point has very little credibility."
Her clients "just want to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about who may have conspired with Prince Andrew to sex traffic them and other underage girls", Allred said.
"Trying to delay, trying to deny, trying to evade the questions and attack the questioners is really not helpful at all," she said.
Lawyers for the duke, who is the second son of Queen Elizabeth, said in their statement that US authorities were mischaracterizing offers to have him cooperate.
"The Duke of York has on at least three occasions this year offered his assistance as a witness to the DOJ," the law firm Blackfords LLC said.
"Unfortunately, the DOJ has reacted to the first two offers by breaching their own confidentiality rules and claiming that the Duke has offered zero cooperation," the statement said.
"In doing so, they are perhaps seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered," Blackfords said.False portrayal
Berman said Prince Andrew had not been cooperative with the US investigation of Epstein.
"Prince Andrew yet again sought to falsely portray himself to the public as eager and willing to cooperate with an ongoing federal criminal investigation into sex trafficking and related offences committed by Jeffrey Epstein and his associates," Berman said.
"The prince has not given an interview to federal authorities, has repeatedly declined our request to schedule such an interview, and nearly four months ago informed us unequivocally - through the very same counsel who issued today's release - that he would not come in for such an interview," Berman said.
BREAKING EXCL: Huge development tonight in the Prince Andrew/Jeffrey #Epstein saga. @thesun can reveal the US has officially demanded Britain allow #Andrew to be quizzed over his ties to the paedophile: https://t.co/LffY46bS7b— Tom Wells (@ByTomWells) June 7, 2020
Underlying the public dispute, however, are terms under which Prince Andrew would agree to be interviewed.
US authorities have made a formal request to the UK Home Office that Prince Andrew be made available for an interview, according to reports. A 1994 treaty between the US and the UK provides for cooperation in criminal matters including, potentially, placing witnesses under oath.
"Any pursuit of an application for mutual legal assistance would be disappointing, since the Duke of York is not a target of the DOJ investigation and has recently repeated his willingness to provide a witness statement," Prince Andrew's lawyers said.
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, one of Epstein's sex trafficking victims, has claimed in court documents she had sex with Prince Andrew multiple times when she was underage in 2001.
The Duke of York denied in a UK television interview in 2019 that he ever had sex with Roberts and said he did not recall meeting her. But a photograph of him with his arm around her waist has been widely circulated.
Prince Andrew has received criticism for maintaining ties with Epstein even after Epstein was arrested and charged with paedophilia in 2008. The duke visited Epstein and stayed at his home in New York City in 2010.