Andrew has been under intense scrutiny ever since his friend, the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested in 2019 for charges related to sex trafficking. Epstein had already pleaded guilty for procuring an underage girl for prostitution and soliciting a prostitute in 2008, before serving close to 13 months. When he was arrested again last year, Epstein was denied bail and killed himself in jail before his trial.
US authorities have continued to investigate the high-profile figure’s alleged international sex trafficking ring.
Ghislaine Maxwell was the ex-girlfriend and longtime associate of Epstein and was arrested in July on charges related to the convicted sex offender’s sex trafficking crimes — she has pleaded not guilty.
The socialite has been denied bail and her trial is set to take place in July 2021.
She is believed to have introduced Epstein to Prince Andrew in around 1999, meaning her arrest put an even greater spotlight onto the royal.
Ms Maxwell has also just lost a legal battle in the run-up to her trial.
She was fighting to keep details about her personal life with Epstein private in an attempt to prevent them from being used in her trial.
Ms Maxwell wanted her testimonies from a 2015 civil case — brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre which was settled under seal in 2017 — not to be used in her criminal case.
Her lawyers argued that the evidence would reduce her ability to defend herself against her current charges.
Yet, this week, the 2nd US Circle Court of Appeals decided that her attempts to keep the documentation secret were meritless, meaning seven hours of depositions and 2,000 pages of documents can be released before her trial next year.
Ms Roberts Giuffre has also alleged that she was groomed by both Epstein and Ms Maxwell, and had sex with Prince Andrew on three separate occasions around 2001.
Buckingham Palace and the Duke of York have “emphatically denied” that Andrew had “any form of sexual contact or relationship” with Ms Roberts Giuffre, and said any such claims were “false and without foundation”.
Andrew decided to face the scrutiny head on last November when he agreed to a bombshell BBC Newsnight interview to discuss his relationship with Epstein.
However, the interview was seen as a “car-crash”.
A few days later, Andrew released a statement where he acknowledged his link with Epstein has become “a major disruption to my family’s work”, and expressed his “regret” over their “ill-judgement association”.
He announced he was stepping back from public duties for the foreseeable future.
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The Duke of York also said: “I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
Yet, with the latest developments in Ms Maxwell’s case, a royal author claims Andrew has been dealt a “severe blow” which means he is unlikely to ever be able to return to the royal frontline.
Nigel Cawthorne, author of ‘Prince Andrew: Epstein and the Palace’, told Express.co.uk: “The decision of the US Court of Appeals to the Second Circuit to deny Prince Andrew’s close friend Ghislaine Maxwell’s request to keep the remaining unpublished depositions under seal has dealt a severe blow to the prince’s return to the frontline of the Royal Family.”
He claimed: “The detailed questions to Maxwell regarding any involvement in Epstein’s sex ring and her answers will once again cast the spotlight on the promise the prince made almost a year ago on BBC Newsnight to assist the FBI with its investigations into Epstein’s associates.”
Mr Cawthorne is referring to Andrew’s interview from last November, where he was asked if he would be willing to help US authorities with their investigation.
At the time, Andrew said: “I will have to take all the legal advice that there was before I was to do that sort of thing.
“But if push came to shove and the legal advice was to do so, then I would be duty bound to do so.”
A source close to the Duke told Express.co.uk: “We never comment on supposition or speculation, especially from people engaged in the business of promoting their own book.”But what we do know is that the Duke has done nothing unlawful and therefore has nothing to fear from the unsealing of any documents from any court case at any time.”The truth will out, and soon.”
‘Prince Andrew: Epstein and the Palace’ by Nigel Cawthorne was published by Gibson Square Books Limited in 2020 and is available here.