The US Department of Justice filed a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request last month to the UK Home Office to interview Prince Andrew about his relationship with the late US sex offender and high-profile pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted of sex trafficking, The Sun reported on Sunday.
The MLA request, a method of cooperation between nations for obtaining assistance in an investigation or prosecution of criminal offences, would reportedly “force” the Duke of York to appear in front of a UK court to testify under oath on the case.
The request, which has by-passed Buckingham Palace, will also oblige the UK government to offer legal assistance in the case. London officials have not yet taken a decision regarding the request, according to the newspaper.
Unnamed sources cited by the outlet said that the prince - the youngest son of reigning UK monarch Queen Elizabeth II - was “unlikely” to be aware of the request currently, as the 1994 MLA treaty obliges countries to keep such requests secret.
“It’s a huge statement of intent from the US and it moves Andrew into the realms of a criminal investigation. It’s also frankly a diplomatic nightmare,” one of the sources said. “The DoJ does not make a request of this nature lightly, especially one involving a senior member of the British royal family. It puts the UK government in a very difficult position - and the Duke of York even more so”.
If the UK Home Office approves the request, US investigators would follow one of two methods, according to the report. The first option, used only for witnesses to crimes, would be to interview Prince Andrew and ask him to volunteer to give a signed statement, not under oath.
The second option, said to be the potential choice of the US investigators due to the prince’s previous “lack of cooperation”, is to oblige the Duke to appear at London’s City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court and provide “oral or written evidence on oath”, according to the newspaper.
In case the royal refuses to cooperate, the court could force the prince, who does not hold sovereign immunity from prosecution, to “attend in person” by summons.
The Duke of York has been accused by at least one of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, of having sex with her twice, in 2001 and 2002 while she was underage. Giuffree's accusations were taken in testimony under oath and the 60-year-old royal has consistently denied the allegations.
During a November 2019 interview on BBC, after which Prince Andrew dramatically resigned from all public roles, the royal said that he did not regret befriending the known sexual abuser Epstein, who died in mysterious circumstances in a New York jail in August of that year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.