Newly unsealed court documents claim the Duke of York allegedly lobbied the US government for his former friend Jeffrey Epstein to secure a “favourable” plea deal in the disgraced late financier’s underage prostitution case.
More light has been shed on Prince Andrew’s relationship with Epstein, who he has distanced himself from, through the documents which were published after the court rejected an appeal by Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell to keep them secret.
The documents, released on Thursday, were from a now-settled 2015 defamation lawsuit filed by Virginia Roberts Guiffre, one of Epstein’s alleged victims who named Prince Andrew as one of the notable men she claims she was pressured into having sex with as a 17-year-old.
Ms Guiffre claimed in the suit and other litigation that she was recruited by Maxwell in 2000 to be a sexual slave to Epstein and was also pressured into having sex with US politicians, wealthy entrepreneurs, a famous scientist and fashion designer.
The Duke, all the accused men and Maxwell have denied the allegations. But a photo that emerged of Prince Andrew with his arm around a young Ms Giuffre in a mansion in London put the royal close to the centre of the scandal.
Two of Epstein’s victims, known only as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, alleged the convicted pedophile depended on his high-profile friends, including Prince Andrew, to help him secure a reduced sentence from the US Attorney in South Florida.
They appealed for the release of the documents in the case as they said it would prove Prince Andrew’s involvement in Epstein’s case.
“[They are] seeking documents regarding Epstein’s lobbying efforts to persuade the government to give him a favourable plea arrangement, including efforts on his behalf by Prince Andrew and former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz,” claimed the Does.
“They have alleged these materials are needed to prove their allegations that, after Epstein signed the non-prosecution agreement his performance was delayed while he used his significant social and political connections to lobby the justice department to obtain a more favourable plea deal.”
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution as part of a secret “sweetheart deal” offered by Florida prosecutors. He was only sentenced to 13 months in jail, though much of it was spent outside of a prison and he was allowed to travel to his office almost daily.
As a result of the scandal, Prince Andrew sought to distance himself from Epstein. But after the latter was released from prison in 2010, the Duke was pictured spending time with his former friend, which he said was a "mistake and an error".
Ms Giuffre was asked by her lawyers as part of her deposition in 2016 if Prince Andrew would have “relevant information” that would be useful to investigators.
She said: “Yes, he would know a lot of the truth. I don’t know how much he’d be able to help you with, but seeing as he’s in a lot of trouble himself these days I think he might, so I think he might be valuable.”
The newly released documents also reveal email correspondence between Maxwell and Epstein, who died earlier this year while in prison for other charges.
They also contain claims from Ms Giuffre that Ms Maxwell had sex with girls as young as 15.
Two documents that were not released as scheduled on Thursday were depositions Maxwell gave in the civil lawsuit in 2016, as her lawyers appealed the ruling to have them released.
They said the documents should be blocked since Maxwell now faces criminal charges for aiding Epstein’s abuse of underage girls. She has denied the charges and currently awaits trial in prison in New York following her arrest earlier this month.
Additional reporting by agencies