Prince Andrew has been treated "by a lower standard" than any other citizen over the Jeffrey Epstein investigation, the Duke of York's lawyers have said in an attack on the US authorities.
In an unprecedented statement hitting back at claims he has offered "zero cooperation" to the US authorities, Andrew's team has accused Geoffrey S Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York of breaching the DOJ's confidentiality rules.
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The statement read: "Far from our client acting above the law, as has been implied by press briefings in the US, he is being treated by a lower standard than might reasonably be expected for any other citizen."
The Duke of York's lawyers also state that he has on at least three occasions this year offered his assistance as a witness to the Department of Justice in the US.
The 60-year-old royal's lawyers claim the DOJ only got in touch in January - despite investigating the case for 16 years - and said they only needed his "voluntary" help as he was not a "target" of their criminal investigation.
They insist Andrew offered to co-operate, yet instead of questioning him, the DOJ " sought publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered".
The statement accuses Berman of making "inaccurate" statements that the Duke had offered "zero cooperation" and put up a "wall of silence" and claims the DOJ has given "an entirely misleading account of our discussions with them".
The statement marks the first time Andrew has hit back at the claims since he announced he was stepping down from royal duties "for the foreseeable future" on November 20.
It comes just weeks after a Netflix documentary on Epstein was released featuring Virginia Giuffre, also known as Virginia Roberts, who has alleged she had sex with the Duke of York in 2001 after being trafficked to the UK by the American.
Giuffre has urged Andrew to speak to authorities but a US lawyer said in March that the duke had "completely shut the door" on co-operating with investigators over the probe.
The duke categorically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Giuffre.
Andrew stepped away from royal duties following his disastrous Newsnight interview in November about his relationship with Epstein, who killed himself in his jail cell while awaiting trial for sex trafficking.
Four days after last year's Newsnight interview, the duke said in a statement he was "willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required".
But Berman, who is leading the Epstein inquiry, told reporters in March: "Contrary to Prince Andrew's very public offer to co-operate with our investigation into Epstein's co-conspirators, an offer that was conveyed via press release, Prince Andrew has now completely shut the door on voluntary co-operation and our office is considering its options."
Giuffre alleges the duke had sex with her on three separate occasions, including when she was 17, still a minor under US law.
She also said in an interview with BBC Panorama that she was left "horrified and ashamed" after an alleged sexual encounter with Andrew in London in 2001.
It is one of the most high-profile he said/she said cases in recent years.
MLA requests by other states are used to obtain assistance in an investigation or prosecution of criminal offences, generally when co-operation cannot be obtained by law enforcement agencies.
According to Home Office guidance, it is "usual policy" that the existence of a request is neither confirmed or denied.
Prince Andrew's lawyers statement, in full
In January 2020, Blackfords LLP and instructed counsel, Clare Montgomery QC and Stephen Ferguson, were commissioned to support HRH The Duke of York in his desire to provide co-operation to the US authorities regarding the victims of the late Jeffrey Epstein, should those authorities request his assistance. The working group is supported by Riverside Advisory on media relations.
To date, we have chosen not to make any public statement regarding our discussions with the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Our commitment to confidentiality is not only regarded as best practice in the UK but is also intended to respect the DOJ's commitment to confidentiality, as set out in its own rules as they apply to discussions with potential witnesses.
However, in view of misleading media briefings, we owe it to our client to issue this clarifying statement.
As the public record indicates the DOJ has been actively investigating Mr Epstein and other targets for more than 16 years, yet the first time they requested the Duke's help was on Jan 2, 2020.
Importantly, the DOJ advised us that the Duke is not and has never been a "target" of their criminal investigations into Epstein and that they sought his confidential, voluntary co-operation.
In the course of these discussions, we asked the DOJ to confirm that our co-operation and any interview arrangements would remain confidential, in accordance with the ordinary rules that apply to voluntary co-operation with the DOJ. We were given an unequivocal assurance that our discussions and the interview process would remain confidential.
The Duke of York has on at least three occasions this year offered his assistance as a witness to the DOJ. Unfortunately, the DOJ has reacted to the first two offers by breaching their own confidentiality rules and claiming that the Duke has offered zero cooperation. In doing so, they are perhaps seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered.
On Jan 27, 2020, Mr Geoffrey S Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, chose to make a public statement about the Duke. This led to worldwide media reports that there had been "a wall of silence" and that there had been "zero co-operation" by the Duke. These statements were inaccurate, and they should not have been made.
On Mar 9, 2020, Mr Berman made further public statements saying that the Duke had "completely shut the door" on cooperating with the US investigation and that they are now "considering" further options. Again, the first statement was inaccurate and should not have been made.
It is a matter of regret that the DOJ has seen fit to breach its own rules of confidentiality, not least as they are designed to encourage witness cooperation. Far from our client acting above the law, as has been implied by press briefings in the US, he is being treated by a lower standard than might reasonably be expected for any other citizen. Further, those same breaches of confidentiality by the DOJ have given the global media - and, therefore, the worldwide audience - an entirely misleading account of our discussions with them.
Any pursuit of an application for mutual legal assistance would be disappointing, since the Duke of York is not a target of the DOJ investigation and has recently repeated his willingness to provide a witness statement. It is hoped that this third offer has not been the cause of the most recent leak about the Duke of York.
We do not intend to make any further public statement at this time as we wish to respect the rules of confidentiality under both English law and the US guidelines.