Neighbours of Andrew in Verbier tell how proceeds from £18m ski lodge are likely funding payout

Prince Andrew is thought to be using cash from the sale of his beloved ski chalet to fund his out-of-court settlement in his sex abuse case.

The under fire prince was reported last month to have found a buyer for the luxury retreat in Verbier in a deal worth an estimated £18m.

Locals in the up-market Swiss resort are speculating that he had to dispose of the lodge to settle his case with Virginia Giuffre and avoid a court appearance.

A Buckingham Palace source suggested that Andrew’s payout could have cost him in the region of £7.5m, although the actual figure is shrouded in secrecy.

One near neighbour in the Alpine village said: ‘Andrew and his family loved their chalet – and he would never have wanted to sell it unless he was forced to.

‘He obviously wanted to avoid going to court with all the shame that it would have heaped on him and members of the Royal family, no matter how much he protested his innocence.

‘It looks like selling up was the only option for him to ensure he had the cash to pay his legal bills and fund a settlement.’

Prince Andrew bought the seven-bedroom Chalet Helora (pictured), in the luxury Swiss resort of Verbier with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson in 2014 for £16.6million

The seven bedroom chalet is in one of the most expensive areas of Switzerland’s premier resort which is packed with celebrities and multi-millionaires during the ski season.

The hillside retreat is said to have a master bedroom draped in furs, a living room filled with antiques, a sauna, boot room, indoor pool, a writing room, a £5,600 ball chair and a terrace with stunning views.

Andrew and his former wife, the Duchess of York, are said to have bought the lodge called Chalet Helora from their French socialite friend Isabelle de Rouvre for £18m in 2014.

Ms De Rouvre, 74, agreed to receive some money immediately and more instalments due by December 2019 to allow the sale to proceed.

But she claimed that the Yorks failed to make the final instalment of £5m, forcing her to launch legal action against them in the Swiss courts two years ago.

Interest on the outstanding amount reportedly meant she ended up being owed £6.6m.

Ms De Rouvre confirmed today that she had agreed to receive a lesser amount from Andrew to settle the case last November, allowing him to put the chalet on the market.

She told MailOnline: ‘I won’t say how much he paid me because it’s private. He paid me and I said: ‘OK, everything is now finished.’ We had an agreement. I won’t say how much because it’s private.’

Confirming he did not pay the full amount, she said: ‘No, but that’s life. That was months ago. I don’t really know what’s happened now. Really I don’t care.’

The sale of the chalet to the mystery buyer is said to be at an advanced stage, but it has still not believed to have gone through, meaning that Andrew has not yet got his hands on the money.

It is believed that the delay in completion of the sale explains why he has so far only agreed a ‘settlement in principle’ with Virginia Giuffre who was known as Virginia Roberts when she allegedly had sex with Andrew.

The Buckingham Palace source suggested that Andrew would have been ‘under pressure’ from Prince Charles and other family members to settle the lawsuit against him to avoid the scandal tainting the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations this year.

Andrew pictured in 2001 with ex-wife Sarah Ferguson and the children in Verbier, Switzerland

Andrew pictured in 2001 with ex-wife Sarah Ferguson and the children in Verbier, Switzerland

It is believed that he wanted to reach a deal quickly to avoid the case overshadowing the service of thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey on March 29.

The source said: ‘I’m sure that Charles has had enough and blown a gasket.

‘Charles would have said to him that he needed to get this sorted out as soon as possible and before the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations begin.

‘Charles did not want this hanging over the royal family this year.’           

Following the duke’s settlement, politicians and campaigners have called for transparency over how it will be funded.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome tweeted: ‘This settlement isn’t some act of philanthropy – it prevents this case going to court. We must also ask: where is the money coming from?’

Graham Smith, from campaign group Republic, said taxpayers ‘deserve to know where the money is coming from for a settlement, which we must assume is in the millions, if not tens of millions’.

Before Andrew was engulfed by the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, he appeared to enjoy the lifestyle of a multi-millionaire, complete with jetset holidays and luxury properties. 

He received £249,000 a year from the Civil List before the arrangements changed in 1992. 

He then received an annual allowance to fund his Buckingham Palace office while undertaking royal duties, paid by the Queen from the private income she received from the Duchy of Lancaster estate.

But Andrew was forced to step back from public life in 2019 after the furore over his disastrous Newsnight interview on his friendship with convicted sex offender Epstein. 

Since then it is not known what financial support he receives from his mother, leaving his modest pension from his time in the Royal Navy as his only visible income.

His previous official role as the UK Special Representative for Trade and Investment was unpaid, although taxpayers did fund his substantial travel costs and round-the-clock security.

He is believed to have relied on handouts from the Queen, personal investments and bequests from family members such as the Queen Mother.

It has been suggested that the Queen has used her private income to help her second son with his legal bills. But royal insiders said it would be ‘inconceivable’ for her to contribute to a payout to Miss Roberts to settle her sexual abuse claim.    

Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts stand together with Ghislaine Maxwell in the background in London on March 13, 2001

Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts stand together with Ghislaine Maxwell in the background in London on March 13, 2001

Andrew reportedly rented the £22,000-a-week Chalet Helora in 2013 for his annual family ski holiday to celebrate his 53rd birthday, nearly two years before he bought it.

Royal sources described the purchase at the time as ‘a family investment’, saying it was a nest egg for their daughters Eugenie and Beatrice.

Land Registry documents in Switzerland named the owners simply as Andrew York and Sarah Ferguson, and confirmed that it was bought with the aid of a mortgage.

Questions were raised at the time about how the couple could afford it, particularly as the Duchess had only just managed to clear £5million in debts she had run up.  

Andrew is said to earn only around £270,000 per year, made up of a £249,000-a-year annual stipend from the Queen, topped up with £20,000 from his naval pension.

He did controversially sell his former marital home Sunninghill Park in Berkshire for £15m in 2007 after it languished on the market for five years

The house dubbed South York which was a gift from the Queen was sold for an estimated £3m over the asking price to Kazakh tycoon friend Timor Kulibayev, the son-in-law of the president of Kazakhstan.

Andrew reportedly went on to spend around £7.5m on improvements to 30-room Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, where he and his former wife continue to live together, despite their divorce.

He and Duchess of York were staying at Chalet Helora in January 2015 when claims first emerged that he had sex with a teenage Virgina Giuffre while she was being was kept as a ‘sex slave’ by his billionaire friend Jeffrey Epstein.

She stated in court papers that she was ‘forced’ by Epstein to have sex with Andrew three times including once in London when she was aged 17 and a minor under US law.

Andrew has consistently denied her claims and his settlement with her contains no admission of guilt.

It was revealed in August 2015 that the Duchess of York was using Chalet Helora as her main residence, although she has spent most of her time at Royal Lodge in recent years.

The Duchess and daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, and their respective husbands Jack Brooksbank and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, enjoyed a New Year break at the chalet on a ski trip last month.

Andrew remained at home in Windsor to avoid being seen to be enjoying himself on the Alpine slopes while his sex abuse case was hanging over him.