Pressure on Prince Andrew to speak to FBI investigators was mounting after his friend Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested on charges of sex trafficking and perjury as part of its ongoing inquiry into the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
At a press conference in New York in which prosecutors detailed the allegations facing Maxwell, they urged the Prince to come forward.
“We would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us, we would like to have the benefit of his statement,” said Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the southern district of New York.
“I have no further comment beyond what I just said, which is that our doors remain open, as we previously said, and we would welcome him coming in and giving us an opportunity to hear his statement.”
A source close to the prince’s working group said that his lawyers have twice communicated with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in the past month. “The duke’s team remains bewildered given that we have twice communicated with the DOJ in the last month and to date we have had no response,” the source said.
Strauss’s remarks came following the arrest of Maxwell, the British socialite and close friend of the convicted sex offender Epstein was seized at a luxury hideaway in a small town in New Hampshire early on Thursday.
The prince has made no secret of his longstanding friendship with Maxwell, or that she introduced him to Epstein, who killed himself in his jail cell last August facing charges of sex trafficking minors, which he denied.
Prosecutors have continued their investigation and sought testimony from Prince Andrew. He faces accusations from Virginia Giuffre, who has claimed she was forced to have sex with him at Maxwell’s home in London when she was 17. Her claims have been categorically denied by the prince.
On Thursday, investigators accused Maxwell of “slithering away” into hiding. They claimed she had previously lied repeatedly about her direct and indirect involvement in the abuse of underage girls, because, they alleged, the truth was “almost unspeakable”.
“Maxwell played a critical role in helping Epstein to identify, befriend and groom minor victims for abuse,” the federal prosecutor Strauss told the press conference in Manhattan. “In some cases, Maxwell participated in the abuse.”
“She set the trap. She pretended to be a woman they (alleged victims) could trust.”
Maxwell has long been accused by many women of recruiting them to give Epstein massages, during which they were pressured into sex. Those accusations, until now, never resulted in criminal charges against her.
She has always denied wrongdoing in her dealings with Epstein or females associated with him.
Maxwell had kept a low profile, and her location was unknown since Epstein’s arrest last July on charges that he abused and trafficked in women and girls in Manhattan and Florida between 2002 and 2005.
The search for Maxwell has been the subject of intense speculation, with reported sightings and rumours of her whereabouts popping up across the US and even abroad.
She was arrested in Bradford, New Hampshire, at 8.30 am. At a press conference in New York, William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the New York FBI Office, said: “We have been discreetly keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts.”
He added that authorities had recently learned that Maxwell, “slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire”, continuing to live a “life of privilege”.
Sweeney continued: “We moved when we were ready.”
The 17-page, six-count indictment filed by the Manhattan US attorney charges Maxwell with a host of crimes, including conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and perjury.
The indictment described Maxwell’s relationship to Epstein as “personal and professional” and that she was “in an intimate relationship” with him from about 1994 to 1997. Epstein paid Maxwell “to manage their various properties”, the document says.
The court paperwork provides detail into how Maxwell allegedly lured minors into Epstein’s orbit.
According to charging documents, Maxwell “befriended” some of these victims, “including by asking the victims about their lives, their schools, and their families”. She and Epstein forged relationships with these girls, taking them shopping and to the movies.
The alleged grooming happened, according to the documents, at Epstein’s mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, his ranch in Sante Fe, New Mexico, as well as Maxwell’s residence in London.
After developing a rapport, the documents allege, “Maxwell would try to normalise sexual abuse for a minor victim by, among other things, discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein”.
The indictment claims that Maxwell would sometimes give Epstein massages in front of victims whereas other times, she urged them to give him massages, “including sexualized massage during which a minor victim would be fully or partially nude.” These would often involve Epstein sexually abusing the minors.
On some occasions, it is alleged Maxwell was “present for and participated in the abuse”.
To hide her involvement with Epstein’s abuse, Maxwell gave false information “under oath” in civil litigation, the indictment claims.
Several of Maxwell’s attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.
Maxwell’s father was the British media baron Robert Maxwell. She was a one-time girlfriend of Epstein’s and key presence at his side in his glittering social life, which often included rich, influential, and powerful people from around the world in politics, the arts, and science.
Giuffre, one of Epstein’s alleged victims, has said in a civil lawsuit that Maxwell recruited her into Epstein’s circle, where she claims Epstein forced her to have sex with him and friends including Andrew who has consistently denied the allegations.
His lawyers insist the US Department of Justice has rejected three offers of help volunteered by the prince this year.
Maxwell has said Giuffre’s allegations are untrue. Giuffre in a response filed a defamation suit against Maxwell in 2015.