Mar. 7, 2011 — -- The latest scandal to rock the British royal family is intensifying today as some U.K. lawmakers call for Prince Andrew to step down from his job as trade envoy because of his ties to Jeffrey Epstein, an American billionaire convicted of soliciting underage prostitutes.
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to two prostitution offenses after being accused by prosecutors of paying several underage girls to give him naked massages, incidents which sometimes turned into sexual activity. Epstein was sentenced to 18 months in prison and one year under house arrest. He served 13 months and was released in July 2009.
Prince Andrew, who has known Epstein since 2000, attended a party to celebrate Epstein's release from prison and house arrest, spent time in Epstein's Florida home and was photographed with his arm around the waist of a 17-year-old who claims that Epstein abused her. The minor says she was hired as an erotic masseuse by Epstein.
A photograph of the prince walking with Epstein through Central Park in December 2010 has also surfaced in the press.
According to Britain's Business Secretary, Vince Cable, it is up to Prince Andrew whether to continue with his job as trade envoy.
"He is not a government employee," Cable said.
Andrew has held the position as Britain's special representative for international trade and investment since 2001. Because it's a position he volunteered for, he cannot be fired.
"Obviously there are conversations that will take place with him about what he is to do in future. That is simply a matter of managing the relationship," Cable said in an interview with the BBC.
Buckingham Palace issued a statement this morning saying that Andrew, the queen's second son, "has the support of the government and continues to be fully committed to that role."
Prince Andrew has also been accused of having ties to Moammar Gadhafi's Libyan regime. He hosted Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, shortly before the popular uprising occurred in Libya.
But the palace stands behind Andrew. "It was part of the British government's engagement with Libya at the time," said a palace spokesman of the prince's meetings with Seif al-Islam Gadhafi.
Prince Andrew's Embarrassing History
The prince's history of bad press does not stop at his association with a convicted sex offender or the Libyan regime. He had a highly publicized divorce from Sarah Ferguson, which was followed by massive debt on the part of the duchess. Coincidentally, it was Epstein who paid Ferguson's debt of 15,000 pounds ($24,500) to her former personal assistant, Johnny O'Sullivan, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The duchess confirmed receiving money from Epstein, but claims she did not know about his background as the payment was handled through Prince Andrew's office. Now that Ferguson has learned that Epstein is a convicted sex offender, she vows to return the money.
British officials defend Prince Andrew, and while no suspicions have been raised regarding his involvement with underage prostitutes, the recent association with Epstein coupled with his past embarrassments have many questioning whether he is the right man to represent Britain abroad.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.