National News

Prince Andrew urged to help Epstein probe

The pressure on Britain's disgraced Prince Andrew has increased after the revelation by US authorities that he has failed to cooperate with the FBI's investigation into his ties with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Lawyer Lisa Bloom, who represents five of Epstein's alleged sexual trafficking victims, said Tuesday that it's time for Andrew "to stop playing games and to come forward to do the right thing and answer questions."

Bloom said her clients were "outraged and disappointed at Prince Andrew's behaviour."

Andrew remained out of the public eye on Tuesday. Buckingham Palace and his legal team maintained a "no comment" policy one day after US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Andrew has provided "zero cooperation" to the FBI and the US prosecutors seeking to speak with him about Epstein.

The statement by Berman, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, was the first official confirmation that the leading US law enforcement agency had sought - and failed - to obtain evidence from Andrew, third child of Queen Elizabeth II, despite his pledge in November that he would cooperate with legitimate law enforcement agencies.

The US decision to make the 59-year-old prince's silence public may be part of a strategy to increase public calls for him to cooperate.

Andrew is being sought for questioning as a witness who may be able to shed light on the illegal activities of Epstein, who died in a New York prison in August while awaiting trial on sexually abusing teenage girls. There's no indication that US officials are pursuing criminal charges against the prince.

The FBI only has limited ways to try to convince Andrew to give evidence.

US officials have not provided details, so it's not clear if the FBI made an informal request through Andrew's lawyers or went through formal police channels, which if successful would have led to an interview conducted by UK police, possibly with an FBI agent present.

"They can't compel him to do any of those things," said British lawyer Ben Keith, a specialist in extradition and law enforcement. "The next stage after that is to issue a formal Mutual Legal Assistance Request, which would go through the Foreign Office and be dealt with in the court system."

That could lead, Keith said, to the prince giving evidence via video link to US investigators.

Andrew has been accused by a woman who says that she had several sexual encounters with the prince at Epstein's behest, starting when she was 17.

Virginia Roberts Giuffre says after meeting Epstein as a teenager in Florida in 2000, he flew her around the world and pressured her into having sex with numerous older men, including Andrew, two senior US politicians, a noted academic, and the attorney Alan Dershowitz, who is now part of President Donald Trump's impeachment defence team.

© AP 2020