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Prince Andrew to launch public fight back today after US DOJ request

Prince Andrew will launch an extraordinary public fight back today after US authorities made a formal request for him to be quizzed over the Epstein affair.

The Duke of York is poised this afternoon to release ‘evidence’ that he says will show he has been co-operating with U.S.officials.

He is expected to say that the Department of Justice has made false claims that they have faced a wall of silence from him and his team.

The dramatic update comes as it emerged that the US Department of Justice has filed a ‘mutual legal assistance’ (MLA) request for help to the UK Home Office. These requests are used only in criminal cases under a legal treaty with the UK.

Prince Andrew has always categorically denied any wrongdoing over his relationship with billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. But the request from US officials means he could be forced to appear in a UK court as a witness in the case within months.

US officials have previously claimed that Andrew has refused to co-operate with their requests to be questioned over Epstein and their investigation into his sex trafficking network. Submitting an MLA is an audacious move to try to force him to answer questions.

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The Duke of York, 60, had previously refused to be questioned by prosecutors in New York, in relation to their investigation into Epstein’s historic sex trafficking network

Prince Andrew has previously admitted to becoming friends with Jeffrey Epstein (seen right) in 1999, after being introduced to the financier through Ghislaine Maxwell (Pictured: Melania Trump, Prince Andrew, Gwendolyn Beck and Jeffrey Epstein at a party at the Mar-a-Lago club, 2000)

However, the Mail understands that the prince will make his own dramatic move Monday by hitting back forcefully at claims he has failed to engage with the American investigation.

It is understood his team will publish a full account of their dealings with the Department of Justice. 

The Mail has been told that the duke’s legal team is ‘at the end of its tether’ and has ‘tried to play a straight bat’ with US officials, only to be greeted by leaks and innuendo.

A source close to the duke’s legal team told the Mail last night: ‘Legal discussions with the Department of Justice are subject to strict confidentiality rules, as set out in their own guidelines.

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‘We have chosen to abide by both the letter and the spirit of these rules, which is why we have made no comment about anything related to the Department of Justice during the course of this year. We believe in playing a straight bat.’

Andrew, 60, is yet to speak to prosecutors in the US despite pledging in his disastrous Newsnight interview in November last year that he would co-operate. 

The Department of Justice’s request for ‘mutual legal assistance’ from the Home Office effectively bypasses a request to Buckingham Palace. 

It means Andrew could be forced to appear in a British court as a witness within months.

One of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Roberts, alleges she had sex with the Duke of York three times when she was 17 at the behest of the billionaire pedophile. The prince emphatically denies the allegation.

Andrew’s relationship with Epstein came under public scrutiny in 2010 when photos emerged of them together in New York. 

By that time, Epstein was a registered sex offender but the duke spent a weekend at his £57 million ($72 million) mansion. 

Prince Andrew announced he’d be stepping back from public life after a disastrous interview with the BBC in November, regarding the decades-long friendship he shared with Epstein 

The disgraced financier killed himself last August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, but his victims want justice against his alleged conspirators, including British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, 58 – the daughter of shamed media tycoon Robert Maxwell. Lawyers for Miss Maxwell have previously said she denies any wrongdoing.

Andrew has categorically denied having any knowledge that Epstein was sexually abusing teenage girls.

Miss Roberts alleges she first had sex with Andrew in 2001 when she was 17 after being trafficked by Epstein. 

She said she was flown on Epstein’s private jet to London to meet the duke and the pair were photographed together in Miss Maxwell’s Belgravia home.

During his Newsnight interview, Andrew said he did not recall ever meeting Miss Roberts. 

It was claimed last night that the MLA request, reported by The Sun, was formally lodged by the Department of Justice last month under the terms of a 1994 treaty.

If granted, US prosecutors could either ask the duke to voluntarily attend an interview or give a signed statement. 

They could also ask Andrew to attend a magistrates’ court to provide oral or written evidence on oath. If he refused, the duke could be forced to attend in person. 

But Andrew would have the right to ‘plead the 5th Amendment’ under the US Constitution and stay silent in order to not incriminate himself.

The MLA request is not the same as requesting Andrew’s extradition. That process could be launched only if he was considered a formal suspect and the FBI believed there was enough evidence to charge him.

Home Office sources last night confirmed the request had been made. No decision has yet been made by UK officials.

Virginia Roberts Giuffre (right) claims she was trafficking by Epstein to have sex with Prince Andrew in London, in 2001, at Maxwell’s home in Mayfair when she was 17-years-old

Unlike his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Andrew does not have diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

However, any evidence provided by Andrew may be held ‘in camera’, meaning the session would be private with press and members of the public barred from attending.

The Duke would also retain the right to ‘plead the fifth’ and stay silent, however legal experts have already warned that any decision to do so could dramatically backfire.

‘While the Prince would retain the right to decline to testify under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the impact on his already diminished reputation would be considerable and an adverse inference could be drawn against him in the related civil litigations, leading to a possible default judgment,’ former federal prosecutor Evan T Barr wrote in the New York Law Journal last month.

Barr suggested Andrew’s ‘safest approach is to hunker down in the UK.’ 

Giuffre also alleges that Epstein paid her to have sex with Andrew at Epstein’s New York mansion, and claims to have had sex with Prince Andrew and eight other girls on Epstein’s private island

Andrew vehemently denies the allegations made by Roberts, insisting he has no recollection of ever meeting her

Prince Andrew announced he’d be stepping back from public life after the disastrous interview with BBC’s Newsnight in November, regarding the decades-long friendship he shared with Epstein.

During the interview, Andrew insisted he would cooperate with any US investigation if his ‘legal advice was to do so’.

However, Lot Lizard in January, US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman criticized Andrew for providing ‘zero cooperation’ with his probe. Then in March, Berman said Andrew had since ‘completely shut the door on voluntary co-operation.’

Representatives for Andrew rebuked the claims, insisting his legal aides had been in regular contact with the prosecutor’s officer since the beginning of the year.

Berman, meanwhile, Lot Lizard said his office was ‘considering its options’ after Andrew’s attorneys made it clear he was ‘not willing to submit to an interview’. The MLA request was then filed in May.

Prince Andrew has previously admitted to becoming friends with Jeffrey Epstein in 1999, after being introduced to the financier through Ghislaine Maxwell.

Epstein was a guest at Maxwell’s birthday party at Sandringham Palace, as well as at Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday party at Windsor Castle in 2006, two months after a warrant was issued for his arrest for the sexual assault of a minor.

Epstein was a guest at Ghislaine Maxwell’s (right) birthday party at Sandringham Palace, as well as at Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday party at Windsor Castle, two months after a warrant was issued for his arrest in 2006 for the sexual assault of a minor

Epstein was convicted for procuring an underage girl for prostitution and soliciting a prostitute in Florida in 2008. He was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell last year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges

Epstein and Andrew were believed to have met on at least 10 other occasions, with the Duke of York even staying over at Epstein’s mansion in New York, at his Palm Beach home and on his private island in the US Virgin Islands.

Roberts claims she was trafficking by Epstein to have sex with Prince Andrew in London, in 2001, at Maxwell’s home in Mayfair when she was 17-years-old. 

Roberts also alleges that Epstein later paid her to have sex with Andrew at Epstein’s New York mansion, and claims to have had sex with Prince Andrew and eight other girls on Epstein’s private island in 2002.

Andrew vehemently denies the allegations made by Roberts, insisting he has no recollection of ever meeting her. 

Epstein was convicted for procuring an underage girl for prostitution and soliciting a prostitute in Florida in 2008. Two years after his release from Prison, Andrew was pictured entering Epstein’s New York mansion in December 2010, where he stayed for four days.

In his interview with Newsnight, Andrew insisted that the ‘sole purpose’ of the visit was to cut ties with Epstein. 

The Queen’s second son likened the 21,000 sq ft mansion to a railway station due to the fact that ‘there were people coming in and out of that house all the time’.

Pushed on why he stayed at the home of a convicted sex offender, he said: ‘Now, I went there with the sole purpose of saying to him that because he had been convicted, it was inappropriate for us to be seen together.’

A former model who was once part of Epstein’s inner circle, claimed in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday earlier this month, that the financier had arranged for three young women to meet Prince Andrew at the residence during the visit.

The women, who were all in their early 20s, were told to ‘dress up beautifully’ for the meetings, the source claimed. 

Jeffrey Epstein, 66, was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell last August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.