Prince Andrew says he has 'no recollection of ever meeting' Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre
He also spoke to the BBC about his friendship with the convicted sex offender.
Nearly five years after allegations first surfaced in court records accusing Britain's Prince Andrew of having sexual relations on multiple occasions with an American teenager, the third child of Queen Elizabeth has broken his silence about those claims and his long relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender who died in prison earlier this year.
During an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., Prince Andrew acknowledged that he had "let the side down, simple as that" by staying in Epstein's New York mansion even after he'd been convicted.
"I stayed with him. And, that's the bit that, um, as it were, I kick myself for on a daily basis cause it was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family and we try and uphold the, um, highest standards and practices," the Duke of York told "Newsnight" presenter Emily Maitlis in one of two brief excerpts released on Friday.
The BBC described its rare sit-down with the Duke of York as a "no-holds barred" interview nearly a year in the making. According to the BBC, the full interview with Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace on Thursday is scheduled to be broadcast Saturday evening in Britain.
For nearly a decade, the prince has been under scrutiny for his association with Epstein, a multi-millionaire financier and the subject of state and federal investigations since the mid-2000s for allegedly recruiting underage girls for illicit massages and sex. Epstein ultimately avoided federal charges involving allegations of abuse against nearly three dozen girls by agreeing to two comparatively minor charges in Florida state court. He served just 13 months of an 18-month term in a county jail.
In late December 2014, Virginia Roberts Giuffre alleged in court filings that she had been recruited by Epstein's longtime companion, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, for a job as a traveling masseuse for Epstein. She further claimed that she'd been directed by Epstein and Maxwell to have sex with Prince Andrew on two occasions when she was 17, and on a third occasion when she'd just turned 18.
Included in her filings was a photograph, now widely disseminated, of Prince Andrew with his arm around her waist, while Maxwell smiled in the background. That photo first surfaced in a 2011 Daily Mail story.
In his interview with "Newsnight," however, Prince Andrew said he couldn't remember ever meeting Giuffre.
"(She) had made allegations against you," Maitlis said. "She says she met you in 2001, she says she dined with you, danced with you at Tramp Nightclub in London. She went on to have sex with you in a house in Belgravia belonging to Ghislaine Maxwell, your friend. Your response?"
"I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady. None, whatsoever," the Duke of York said.
"You don't remember meeting her?" Maitlis asked.
"No," he said.
Giuffre initially made those allegations against the prince in a long-running lawsuit filed by two alleged victims of Epstein who were challenging Epstein's indulgent non-prosecution agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2008. Giuffre also alleged she'd been directed by Epstein and Maxwell to have sex with multiple prominent men, including the Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
Dershowitz has vehemently denied the allegations and has been sued by Giuffre for defamation, which he's denied. He's also countersued Giuffre for defamation.
Four months after Giuffre's allegations surfaced in those court filings, a U.S. District Judge in April 2015 denied Giuffre's motion to join the case challenging Epstein's deal and ordered stricken from the public record all of her allegations that pertained to Prince Andrew and additional third parties not involved in the litigation.
Giuffre subsequently filed a federal defamation lawsuit against Maxwell and her allegations against the prince eventually resurfaced in that litigation.
The court record in that case, which settled in 2017, was kept largely under seal, however. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ordered about 2,000 pages of documents released. Those newly public records revealed that Giuffre, in deposition testimony, had also alleged she was directed by Epstein and Maxwell to have sex with other men, including former U.S. Senator George Mitchell and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Both men denied the allegations and said they'd never met Giuffre.
Among the documents also unsealed is a partial transcript of a 2016 deposition of Maxwell in which she claims "everything [Giuffre] said is false, so everything that leads from that is false."
All of those publicly accused by Giuffre have denied the allegations.
The royal family has issued a series of statements on Prince Andrew's behalf, denying the allegations raised by Giuffre.
"It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with [Giuffre]," a statement from Buckingham Palace said in early 2015. Shortly thereafter, during a speech at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Prince Andrew obliquely addressed the controversy personally for the first time, saying only that he wished to "reiterate and reaffirm the statements which have already been made on my behalf by Buckingham Palace."
While there would seem to be no way to reliably contest the prince's claim that he doesn't remember meeting Giuffre, there is the 2001 photograph showing the him with his arm around her waist.
Flight records of Epstein's plane, which surfaced in other Epstein litigation, showed that Giuffre had traveled overseas with Epstein and Maxwell in March 2001, including making a stop in London.
And, there are recently unsealed excerpts from 2016 deposition testimony from another Florida woman, Johanna Sjoberg, who said that she flew to New York with Giuffre in April 2001, from Palm Beach on Epstein's plane -- flight records support this -- and attended a gathering at Epstein’s New York mansion where Prince Andrew was in attendance.
Sjoberg, who was not underage, testified under oath in a pretrial deposition in the defamation case against Maxwell, that, in the presence of others including Maxwell, she sat on Prince Andrew's lap, with Giuffre beside her on a couch or chair. Sjoberg said Prince Andrew touched her breast and also used a puppet provided by Maxwell to touch Giuffre. Sjoberg also said, in response to questions in the deposition, that it appeared to her that this all happened in a joking manner.
The deposition excerpt that has been made public cuts off at that point, so there is no way to know what she said in the deposition as to what happened next.
After Giuffre first filed her claims in 2014, her attorneys wrote to the prince, seeking to question him about his relationship with Epstein, to no avail. After Epstein's death earlier this year, Brad Edwards and David Boies, her attorneys, renewed their request in another letter, asking Prince Andrew to respond to their questions "in a dignified manner and appropriate setting that would, we believe, clarify the record for everyone's benefit, including your own." It's unknown whether the prince responded to the latest letter.
On July 6, Epstein was arrested by federal authorities at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey just as his private jet landed upon his return from France. He was charged in a two-count indictment with child sex trafficking and conspiracy for alleged crimes occurring in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. The charges did not relate directly to Giuffre's allegations. Epstein was denied bail and subsequently died in August, apparently by suicide.
Under renewed pressure to explain the prince's association with Epstein, Buckingham Palace issued a statement Aug. 19, saying that the Duke of York "has been appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes. His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent.”
Five days later, the Prince himself issued a statement acknowledging that it was a "mistake and an error" to associate with Epstein after his release from jail, but again denied any knowledge of Epstein's crimes.
"At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction," the statement said.
Outside the final court hearing in Epstein's criminal case on Aug. 28, Giuffre vowed to continue to demand answers from the prince and from Maxwell and others she claims aided Epstein in facilitating or participating in her alleged abuse.
"I will never be silenced until these people are brought to justice," Giuffre said.
As for the prince's denials, she said, "He knows exactly what he's done, and I hope he comes clean about it."
Reached for comment by ABC News, Edwards, one of Giuffre's attorneys, said he was reserving comment until after the BBC broadcast, other than to say that their "long-standing invitation" for the prince to provide answers to their questions remains open.
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