Ministers are hoping Prince Andrew will speak to the FBI over his links to Ghislaine Maxwell and paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Esptein without them having to intervene.
Maxwell appeared in court in the US on Thursday accused of helping disgraced financier Epstein ‘identify, befriend and groom’ multiple girls, including one as young as 14.
US prosecutors have lodged a formal request to interview Andrew, a friend of Epstein’s, made through the filing of a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) to the Home Office, as reported by The Sunday Telegraph.
An MLA is part of an agreement with the United States that means they can ask for assistance from British authorities in criminal matters.
The request causes something of a predicament for Home Secretary Priti Patel, with the Government keen that US authorities and Andrew sort the issue out between themselves.
US prosecutors have lodged a formal request to interview Andrew, a friend of Epstein’s, made through the filing of a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) to the Home Office. Pictured: Prince Andrew during his now infamous Newsnight interview
The Duke cannot be forced to talk to the FBI, but the submission of the MLA means it could turn into a diplomatic headache for the Government.
Andrew Campbell-Tiech QC, head of Drystone Chambers told the newspaper: ‘I’m sure the Home Office would rather the two parties deal with it themselves without any ministerial involvement.
‘The last thing they want is to find themselves caught between the Royal family on one side and the US authorities on the other. They do not want to navigate through that.’
Andrew has previously claimed he has offered two times to be a witness in the case.
A source close to the Duke said: ‘We’ve been in contact with the US Department of Justice saying we’re willing to offer assistance. The Duke has indicated his intention to cooperate with the investigation and the ball is now in their court.
‘There is still a dialogue going on and we are sure the Home Office would not want to intervene.’
Andrew was friend’s with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted paedophile, who killed himself last year
A spokesman for the prosecutors at the Southern District of New York declined to comment to the Sunday Telegraph on the question of Mutual Legal Assistance.
The Home Office told the newspaper it would not confirm or deny the existence of an MLA request.
It comes as one of Ghislaine Maxwell’s friend’s said she would ‘never’ disclose information about the Duke of York in the case surrounding paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, her friend has claimed.
Former investment banker Laura Goldman said the British socialite regarded Andrew as a friend and was ‘never going to say anything’ about him to investigators.
It comes as Maxwell appeared in court in the US on Thursday accused of helping disgraced financier Epstein ‘identify, befriend and groom’ multiple girls, including one as young as 14.
Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts, (middle) aged 17 at Ghislaine Maxwell’s (right) townhouse in London, on March 13, 2001
The duke, who is a former friend of Epstein, has since been urged to provide information to the investigation by a US attorney.
Ms Goldman, who claims to have known Maxwell since she moved to the US, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday she would ‘have to’ go for a plea deal with prosecutors.
Asked if Maxwell would speak about the duke as part of the investigation, Ms Goldman said: ‘She has always told me she would never, ever say anything about him.
‘I think she felt he was her friend and she was never going to say anything about him.
‘She felt in the 90s when her father died that Prince Andrew was there for her.’
Ms Goldman said she last spoke to Maxwell ‘a couple of weeks ago’ prior to her arrest in New Hampshire on Thursday, adding: ‘She knew she was coming to the end of the road.’
She claimed Maxwell was a ‘victim’ of Epstein and was always ‘a little afraid’ of him.
Ms Goldman said: ‘I think she thought if she did one more grooming, found him one more girl, he would marry her. Is that okay? No.
‘She honestly thought at the end of the day she would be Mrs Jeffrey Epstein and that was the prize she wanted.’
Maxwell, daughter of late media mogul Robert Maxwell, has previously denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of sexual misconduct by her former boyfriend Epstein.
At a brief hearing on Thursday, a magistrate judge ordered her to remain in custody while she is transferred to New York for a detention hearing.
Four of the six charges cover Maxwell’s dealings with Epstein from 1994 to 1997, when she was in an ‘intimate relationship’ with him, according to the indictment.
These include conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.
She is further charged with conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Epstein killed himself last August before facing trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.
Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, told a press conference that authorities would ‘welcome’ a statement from the duke.
But a source close to the duke said he was ‘bewildered’ by claims made by US authorities that he has not offered to co-operate with the Epstein case.
One of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked by the financier, alleges the duke had sex with her on three separate occasions, including when she was 17, still a minor under US law.
The duke categorically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Ms Giuffre.