Date
13 December 2019
Prince Andrew had been under scrutiny over his friendship with disgraced late US financier Jeffrey Epstein for several years. Photo: Reuters
Prince Andrew had been under scrutiny over his friendship with disgraced late US financier Jeffrey Epstein for several years. Photo: Reuters

Britain’s Prince Andrew halts public duties over sex scandal

Britain’s Prince Andrew stepped down from public duties on Wednesday, saying the controversy surrounding his “ill-judged” association with late US financier Jeffrey Epstein had caused major disruption to the royal family’s work, Reuters reports.

Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, denies an allegation that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl procured for him by his friend Epstein, who killed himself in a US prison in August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

The scandal has escalated since Andrew did an interview with BBC TV, aired on Saturday. The interview has drawn widespread criticism in the media, where many have said his explanations were unsatisfactory, while lawyers for Epstein’s victims said the prince showed little sympathy for those abused.

As the story dominated news headlines for a fourth day and a slew of businesses distanced themselves from organizations and charities associated with the prince, he said he would step down from public life for the time being and speak to police about Epstein.

“It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work,” he said in a statement issued by Buckingham Palace.

“Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission,” said Andrew, 59, whose official title is the Duke of York.

“Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.” 

Andrew, widely reputed to be the favorite of the queen’s three sons, has been under scrutiny over his friendship with Epstein for several years.

Now eighth-in-line to the throne, he quit as Britain’s roving trade ambassador in 2011 after being lambasted for his links to the financier following Epstein’s jailing in 2008 for child sex offences.

Then in 2015, one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, said she was forced to have sex with Andrew in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island between 1999 and 2002, when she says Epstein kept her as a “sex slave”.

In his BBC interview, Andrew categorically denied the sex claims and gave a series of explanations as to why her account was not true.

The explanations provoked derision and ridicule in newspapers and social media.

Rather than drawing a line under the accusations, the interview has led to more questions and businesses pulling out of supporting his charities, Reuters noted. 

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