Duke of York under pressure over troublesome connections
PRESSURE is mounting on the Duke of York and his future as a British envoy over his friendship with a convicted paedophile.
The FBI is reportedly reopening an investigation into Prince Andrew’s friend Jeffrey Epstein, a US financier jailed in 2008 for soliciting an underage girl for prostitution.
Prince Andrew is also facing criticism for his alleged links to Saif Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, and for entertaining at Buckingham Palace the son-in-law of the ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
It was revealed on Sunday that the Prince was undergoing a six-monthly review of his unpaid role as Britain’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment.
While Prince Andrew is unlikely to be sacked as an envoy, his role may be scaled back.
There is no suggestion that Prince Andrew was involved in any illegal activity and last week he cut his ties with Epstein.
But his maintenance of the friendship after Epstein’s conviction has resulted in lurid headlines and raised yet more doubts about his judgment.
A senior MP said that the Prince’s role was a dilemma for British prime minister David Cameron.
“Nothing has actually been proved. It’s not for the Prime Minister to say he does or does not have confidence in the brother of the future King. There are also dangers in us endorsing him too.”
Government sources said that while Downing St would do nothing to push him out, they would “shed no tears” if he chose to leave.
Buckingham Palace had maintained that the Duke’s contact with Epstein was a private matter, but sources close to him said on Sunday that he had cut his links with the American.
“He recognises now that the meeting [with Epstein] in December was unwise,” a source told The Times.
“We would not expect to see another photograph of Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein together any time soon.”
That sense of a Prince under siege was emphasised on Saturday when a letter from his private secretary was published in The Times.
Alastair Watson defended the Duke’s role, denied that the Duke was a friend of Saif Gaddafi and said of his relationship with Epstein: “The insinuations and innuendos that have been made in relation to the Duke are without foundation.”
But there was no sign that he intended to step down. “He remains committed to the role,” a source said, “and it is understood that the Government is supportive of him.”
As recently as December Prince Andrew the Duke flew to New York and stayed with Epstein for four days, during which the pair were pictured strolling through Central Park.
Another photograph, which was taken in 2001 but emerged last month, showed Prince Andrew with his arm around Virginia Roberts, who was then 17 and claims that she was hired as a masseuse by Epstein when she was a minor.