Prince Andrew has clarified speculation around his controversial friendship with Jeffrey Epstein following the billionaire’s death weeks ago, claiming he never witnessed any criminal behaviour that led to his friend’s arrest.
Just days before the death of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein – who committed suicide in his New York jail cell earlier this month while he awaited trial on charges of conspiracy and sex trafficking – a lawsuit from one of his alleged victims was unsealed, which named Prince Andrew and other former high profile friends.
Now weeks later, as discussion around the prince’s friendship continues to cause controversy, the royal family has released a lengthy statement from Andrew to clear the air. In the long message, shared online by multiple royal reporters, the Queen’s son claims to have spent limited time with Epstein throughout his life and said he clearly didn’t know the “real” person the billionaire was.
Prince Andrew issues a statement on his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein. pic.twitter.com/S5G6vpHaxw
— Richard Palmer (@RoyalReporter) August 24, 2019
“It is apparent to me since the suicide of Mr Epstein that there has been an immense amount of media speculation about so much in his life,” the statement shared on Twitter read. “This is particularly the case in relation to my former association or friendship with Mr Epstein. Therefore I am eager to clarify the facts to avoid further speculation.”
Andrew continued by explaining that he saw Epstein “infrequently” throughout the course of his life, after meeting in 1999, only once or twice a year. He also said he stayed at a number of Epstein’s residence’s over that time but never witnessed or suspected any behaviour that led to his arrest.
Andrew claimed he made a mistake in seeing Epstein after his release in 2010 writing: “I have said previously that it was a mistake and an error to see him after his release in 2010 and I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we now know. I have tremendous sympathy for all those affected by his actions and behaviour.”
Adding: “This is a difficult time for everyone involved and I am at a loss to be able to understand or explain Mr Epstein’s lifestyle. I deplore the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour.”
Wealthy US financier Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive in his cell in Metropolitan Correctional Center (sic) on August 10. He was rushed to New York Downtown Hospital but later pronounced dead.
“Saturday, August 10, 2019, at approximately 6.30am, inmate Jeffrey Edward Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell … subsequently pronounced dead by hospital staff,” a statement from the Metropolitan Correctional Center (sic) read. The US Department of Justice added that his death was the result of an “apparent suicide”.
Epstein, whose friendship with Andrew was widely known, was previously arrested over a series of allegations of sexual misconduct from at least 2002 to 2005. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
However, news of his death came just days after a series of documents detailing allegations of sexual misconduct were unsealed – also naming Prince Andrew and a series of other former friends. The documents from a 2015 defamation case were released by a judge. The case was brought by Virginia Giuffre, an alleged victim of Epstein, against socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.
The documents included an allegation by a woman called Johanna Sjoberg, who claimed Prince Andrew touched her breast while they sat on a couch in Epstein’s apartment in Manhattan in 2001. They also include transcripts from a past deposition in which Giuffre claimed she was forced into a sexual encounter with the Duke of York. Buckingham Palace strongly denied the allegation in 2015, saying in a statement that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors” by the prince was “categorically untrue”.
Attorney general William Barr admitted he was “appalled” by the news of his death at the time, and confirmed he has opened an investigation by the Department of Justice’s inspector general, saying: “Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI’s investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein’s death.”