12:36, July 03 77 0 theguardian.com

2020-07-03 12:36:04
Prince Andrew's silence is a 'torture test' for Epstein's alleged victims, says lawyer

The Duke of York was accused of subjecting alleged victims of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to a “torture test” by his silence as lawyers for the women increased the pressure following the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell.

As Maxwell, 58, remained in custody on charges of facilitating former boyfriend Epstein’s sexual exploitation of underage girls, lawyers for multiple women demanded Prince Andrew “be a man”, “speak up” and stop “deliberately avoiding” US authorities.

Maxwell, a long-time friend of Andrew, 60, who introduced him to Epstein, is accused of helping the convicted paedophile by identifying, befriending and grooming victims as young as 14, allegations she has previously denied. It is alleged she also participated in the sexual abuse.

US prosecutors have said they would “welcome” a statement from the royal in relation to the criminal investigation into Epstein’s alleged co-conspirators.

Gloria Allred, representing some of the alleged victims involved in separate civil litigation against Epstein’s estate, claimed Andrew was “avoiding and evading” US law authorities by not providing a statement.

“He needs to do it without delay. It is so traumatising and difficult for the victims not to know the truth,” she told ITV’s Good Morning. “And this kind of torture test that Prince Andrew is subjecting the victims to , like he will or he won’t give a statement, if he will, when?”

Spencer Coogan, representing other alleged victims, said of Andrew: “We have continuously asked him to step forward, step up, be a man and tell us what he knows,” he told the BBC.

Lisa Bloom, representing six women, also urged Andrew to speak up about what he witnessed while visiting Epstein’s homes in New York, Palm Beach, Florida and the US Virgin Islands. Brad Edwards, another of the alleged victims’ lawyers, said: “There’s no doubt he’s deliberately evading authorities.”

Last month, lawyers for the Duke of York issued a statement accusing the American investigators of misleading the public and breaching their own confidentiality rules in their handling of the inquiry.

Blackfords, the London-based criminal law specialists, alleged the US Department of Justice (DoJ) had effectively rejected three offers of help volunteered by the prince this year.

On Friday a source close to Andrew’s legal working group said: “The duke has offered his assistance to the DoJ investigation on a number of occasions this year. In addition, the working group have pro-actively contacted the DoJ twice in the last month and have received no response. That is why we remain utterly bewildered by the DoJ’s approach. However, a request from a commercial law firm is not and never will be the same as an official judicial process.”

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed the government had not received an approach by the US authorities to interview Andrew.

“No such approach has been made and otherwise it really is a matter for the royal family,” he told LBC, declining to comment further.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, also urged the duke to co-operate.

“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact who the victims are, the victims were children at the time – vulnerable children, young women – and it’s really important that anybody who’s got information helps the FBI and that includes Prince Andrew as well,” he said.

Maxwell was arrested in a dawn raid on a $1m property called Tuckedaway set in 156 acres of forest in Bradford, New Hampshire on Thursday. William Sweeney, from the New York FBI, said she had “slithered away to a gorgeous property” where she continued to live a life of privilege.

Details of her considerable wealth emerged in written court documents as prosecutors sought to deny her bail over fears she was a flight risk. It was claimed she had passports for three countries – the UK, US and France – and more than 15 different bank accounts associated with her from 2016 until the present. They contained amounts from “hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than £20m.”

She is said to have transferred “hundreds of thousands of dollars” between these accounts, and had one or more foreign bank accounts with more than $1m. The prosecution maintains that from 2007 to 2011, more than $20m was moved from accounts linked to Epstein to accounts linked to Maxwell.

According to the indictment, three unnamed minors were allegedly “induced and enticed” by Maxwell, who “facilitated” for them to be groomed by Epstein between 1994 and 1997 at his properties in Manhattan, Palm Beach in Florida, Santa Fe in New Mexico, as well as Maxwell’s London townhouse.

The unnamed victims on the indictment do not include Virginia Giuffre, who was pictured in 2001 with Andrew’s arm around her at Maxwell’s London home. Giuffre alleges she had sex with the duke when trafficked by Epstein aged 17, a claim Andrew has categorically denied.

Maxwell faces six counts: conspiracy to entice minors, and enticement of a minor, to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors, and transportation of a minor, with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and two of perjury. If convicted she faces up to 35 years.

She has previously denied any wrongdoing.

The renewed spotlight on Andrew ends a troubled week for the British royal family. In another court battle, legal filings by the Duchess of Sussex in her case against Associated Newspapers, revealed she felt “unprotected” by the royal family from claims made in the Uk tabloid press against her while she was pregnant.

Meghan is suing the publishers of the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online over the publication of extracts from a private handwritten letter she sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.

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