Scandal-hit royal Prince Andrew had secretly set up a private investment fund under an assumed name, supposedly in an attempt to avoid scrutiny amidst the scandal surrounding his controversial friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, The Daily Telegraph reports.
According to the outlet, the Duke of York is the owner of four interconnected companies, registered at Companies House under the name of “Andrew Inverness” – in a nod at the title of Earl of Inverness that the royal was given by the Queen when he married Sarah Ferguson in 1986.
Although the first of this group of companies were set up six years ago it is only now that Prince Andrew’s links to the companies have surfaced, as he faces heightened scrutiny over his association with the disgraced US financier.
The first business - Urramoor Limited, was incorporated in February 2013. The timing, writes the publication, suggests the Duke had been seeking new business opportunities, as this is just 18 months after the Duke was ordered to give up his UK trade envoy role in 2011 over his links with Epstein.
At the time, Buckingham Palace had confirmed Prince Andrew would give up his title as Britain's "special representative" for Trade and Investment, held from 2001, over calls for the royal to step down due to his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 for soliciting a minor for prostitution.
Urramoor was described as “The Private Investment Office of HRH Duke of York” by a US-South African investment firm which allegedly had dealings with it.
Three further Urramoor companies have been registered in the past six years, including Urramoor Property Ltd and Urramoor Hydrocarbons.
Urramoor Property Ltd, which shows no activity in its latest accounts, lists as its director Amanda Thirsk, the Duke’s private secretary.
Urramoor is run by Libby Mitford Ferguson, 51, a barrister, who is not related to the Duke’s ex-wife but who has been photographed with her, according to the outlet.
Libby Mitford Ferguson has not given an offical comment on the report.
The Telegraph cites a text message by her as saying:
“There is no story about Urramoor. It is a dormant company and about to be struck off.”
The Telegraph also claims it has evidence of the Duke using the name “Andrew Inverness” to make hotel bookings.
The Duke is also listed as a director at Companies House under the name “Andrew Inverness” for another business, Naples Gold Limited, which was incorporated in November 2002.
He also used the name to register a 40 percent holding in Inverness Asset Management (IAM), a company that was active until this March and was set up with wealthy British property developer David Rowland.
Buckingham Palace has not yet officially commented the report.
In the Spotlight
The Duke of York has found his business activities and commercial interests in the spotlight in the wake of the scandal surrounding his friendship with disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein, who is believed to have committed suicide last summer while facing multiple child sex trafficking charges.
Earlier, it emerged that Prince Andrew’s flagship project Pitch@Palace CIC, based in Buckingham Palace, that matches investors with tech start-up companies, was being shut down in the UK, after trustees concluded it had no future as the Epstein scandal continued to reverberate.
At the same time, directors have quit Pitch@Palace Global, its overseas arm.
Late last month, the embattled Prince Andrew was ordered to step down from royal duties by the Queen after giving a “car crash” interview to the BBC in November where he failed to clear his name and insisted he did not regret his friendship with financier because of “the opportunities that I was given to learn either by him or because of him were actually very useful”.
The Duke of York is facing accusations from alleged Epstein sex trafficking victim Virginia Roberts Guiffre, who claims she was ordered by to have sex with him in 2001.
Prince Andrew has been claiming he has no recollection of ever meeting Guiffre, while a statement from Buckingham Palace said:
“It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation."
Convicted sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein, whose death behind bars was officially ruled a suicide but gave rise to speculations of foul play, had been under investigation for nearly two decades. The financier had pleaded not guilty to all charges but faced up to 45 years in prison had he been convicted.