Prince Andrew’s friendship with disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was once characterised by lavish parties and exotic holidays. But now it’s dragging the Prince into a sex scandal that threatens to once again raise uncomfortable questions about the Duke of York’s association with the convicted sex offender.
The pair have known each other for at least 15 years. Andrew maintained an association with Epstein even after Epstein became a convicted sex offender.
Epstein’s fall from grace was almost as abrupt as his rise into the public consciousness. Back in 2003, Vanity Fair ran a long profile of his rise, revealing the devotion of a close-knit group of high-profile friends as well as some interesting details about his past business dealings.
A description of Epstein by Rosa Monckton, former chief executive of Tiffany & Co, really stands out. He’s “a classic iceberg…what you see is not what you get,” she told the magazine. Well, that turned out to be more true than Monckton was presumably intending.
The piece also shed light on Epstein’s companions and interest in women — particularly young, beautiful ones. Epstein, the writer noted, “is known about town as a man who loves women — lots of them, mostly young.” Once source is reported as saying that one of the parties that Prince Andrew allegedly attended was “filled…with young Russian models.”
During this period, Epstein’s chummy relationship with the Prince was well-publicised. Having been introduced to the royal by mutual acquaintance Ghislaine Maxwell (the daughter of disgraced media tycoon Robert Maxwell), Epstein became a close acquaintance. He was a guest at the Queen’s birthday party in 2000, he stayed at Royal residences in Balmoral, Windsor, and Sandringham and, most famously, holidayed with the Prince in Thailand in 2001 during which Andrew was photographed on a yacht surrounded by topless women.
However, the fifth in line to the British throne was soon forced to sever their five-year relationship after the stepmother of a 14-year-old girl made a complaint to police in the US alleging that Epstein had paid the girl to give him an “erotic massage” at his villa. The allegations were then the subject of an 11-month investigation that found a number of additional potential victims and resulted in charges being filed against the financier in 2008.
In June of that year, Epstein agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to soliciting an underage girl for prostitution, receiving an 18-month sentence. He served 13 months.
That plea deal is now at the centre of new developments in a long-running lawsuit. Back in July 2008, an appeal court ruled that the prosecutors in the case had failed to ensure that the victims were informed of the plea deal before it was agreed, in violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA).
The Fifth Circuit court found that “the government should have fashioned a reasonable way to inform the victims of the likelihood of criminal charges and to ascertain the victims’ views on the possible details of a plea bargain.”
Two of the women involved in the original case are now seeking to join two others in a case against the US government alleging a violation of their rights under the CVRA. It’s in those court documents that a women alleges she was repeatedly forced to have sex with Prince Andrew, while considered underage in Florida, where the papers were filed.
The filing, which names Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a close friend and legal council to Epstein, Prince Andrew and Maxwell, alleges that they either participated or were complicit in the sexual abuse of underage girls. It also claims that the network may well be wider still, alleging that it included “prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister, and other world leaders.”
The new allegation is the latest in a string of embarrassments for Andrew. He was reportedly summoned to the Palace by the Queen following the publication of images showing him with Epstein after the latter was released from prison during a trip to New York in February 2011. It later emerged that that Epstein had given £15,000 to Andrew’s former wife Sarah Ferguson to reduce her debts. With the furore that followed he was compelled to resign from his role as UK trade ambassador in 2011.
The Palace has taken the usual step of issuing two denials of the latest allegations. After they first emerged it issued a statement saying that “any suggestion of impropriety with under-age minors [by the duke]…was categorically untrue” and followed up on Monday saying the accusations were “without any foundation.”
Meanwhile, Dershowitz strongly denied the allegations, suggesting that he would bring charges against his accuser in order to require her to repeat the claims under oath. A spokesperson for Maxwell also dismissed the claims.
The Mail on Sunday named the women in question as Virginia Roberts, a mother of three currently living in Australia. She is reportedly planning to release a tell-all book about her time with Epstein.