The Duke of York has accused US prosecutors of "failing to play with a straight bat" after they publicly humiliated him by claiming he was not cooperating with the Jeffrey Epstein investigation.

Sources close to the Duke, 59, revealed that his lawyers were preparing to counter claims that he had ignored multiple appeals for an interview from the FBI. The Sunday Telegraph understands they intend to release a statement clarifying their position imminently.

It comes amid increasing confusion about exactly what the FBI has asked of the Duke and its specific means of contact.

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Geoffrey Berman, a US attorney, made what was deemed an unprecedented move last week when he announced that the Duke had provided "zero cooperation" following the FBI's requests for an interview about Epstein, the convicted pedophile.

One former New York prosecutor said the move was "calculated to elicit a response" and that his office was under immense pressure to produce results on the investigation.

But the Duke quickly contradicted the claim, with a friend suggesting he was "angry and bewildered" by the suggestion he had refused to cooperate, insisting he had not been approached.

The apparent stand-off remains shrouded in mystery, not least because Buckingham Palace has distanced itself from the ongoing crisis. Aides were swift to point out that the Duke was no longer a working royal and as such, they did not represent him.

Having effectively washed their hands of the scandal, they would say only that the issue was being dealt with by the Duke's legal team, which they declined to identify.

Many likely candidates within the field of international law said they had nothing to do with the case, while one well-placed legal source who has previously represented the Royal Family in criminal matters suggested the Duke had chosen to work with a close friend because the matter was so sensitive.

Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York who is leading the investigation into Epstein's possible co-conspirators, is believed to have taken the decision to speak out because the Duke had publicly declared in November that he was "willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required."

Frank Perrone, a former New York prosecutor, said it was a surprising move.

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"Prosecutors don't call out their witnesses and they don't even comment on people they may be speaking to," he said.

"It wasn't a smart move for Andrew to say he would cooperate and he's being called on it now."

The Duke has vehemently denied claims he slept with a teenager who was trafficked to London by Epstein in 2001.

Mr Perrone agreed with many legal experts that it would be hugely problematic for him to provide testimony under oath and that his lawyers would want to see every shred of evidence that concerned him before moving forward.

"There's a lot of documentation of his trips with Epstein, to his island, to and from New York, Epstein attending parties at Buckingham Palace," he said.

"Certainly he wouldn't want to in any way incriminate himself. If there's suspicion with respect to his activity, if he were to make comments or statements during an interview with the FBI or US attorney's office, that were contradictory or that they had evidence that is untruthful that's going to make the spotlight even brighter.

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"He could potentially subject himself to a prosecution, and if not that, then civil lawsuits.

"If I was his attorney, I would not want him to speak to anyone unless there were very strict parameters of a conversation and even then, I'm really not sure what benefit he would receive by speaking to law enforcement at this point."

Typically, US prosecutors intending to speak to a witness in Britain would go through the legal attaché at the US embassy in London.

But sources at the New York prosecutor's office confirmed they went directly to the Duke's lawyers, a decision that may have been prompted by his public statement offering to assist the investigation.

As a result, it has been suggested that any contact may have been discounted as it had not come through official channels.

The truth of the matter, for now, remains unclear.

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But Mr Perrone warned: "What I can say, is that Berman does not want any suggestion or implication that now Epstein's gone we're just going to wipe this under the rug and forget about it."