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Prince Andrew announced Wednesday that he will “step back from public duties for the foreseeable future” because of the continuing controversy over the British royal’s past friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Andrew also said he is willing to help law-enforcement investigations of the deceased wealthy investor and of Epstein’s possible co-conspirators in his crimes.
“It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organisations and charities that I am proud to support,” the Duke of York said in a statement.
Andrew, 59, said he had asked for and received permission to withdraw from public duties from his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who on Wednesday celebrated the 72nd anniversary of her marriage to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Andrew’s duties include serving as patron of more than 200 charities.
The announcement came days after Andrew gave a disastrous interview with the BBC in which, among other things, he denied having sex years ago with one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, as she has claimed.
On the heels of that interview, the auditing firm KPMG said it would not renew its sponsorship Andrew’s initiative to boost entrepreneurship, known as Pitch@Palace, and the drug firm AstraZeneca said it was reviewing its involvement.
“I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein,” Andrew said in his statement Wednesday.
“His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure,” the prince said.
“I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives. Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is continuing their probe of Epstein even after his death, and is focused on people who may have abetted his alleged sexual abuse of dozens of underage girls from 2002 through 2005 at his massive townhouse in New York City and his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.
A spokesman for U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.
In addition to Andrew, Epstein’s former friends including Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton.
Andrew’s performance during his televised interview over the weekend was widely criticized.
He claimed that was incapable of sweating, as Giuffre described him doing when they were dancing at a London night club. Giuffre has said that she was directed to have sex with Andrew by Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime Epstein friend who has been accused of being a procurer of girls to satisfy his compulsive need for sexual services.
Andrew in the same interview also justified his decision to stay at Epstein’s house in New York City for four days in 2010 during a visit to end their friendship by saying it was “a convenient place to stay.”
That visit came two years after Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges in Florida, which included paying an underage girl for sexual services.
Epstein served 13 months in jail in that case, although he was free on work release for much of that time, and also was required to register as a sex offender.
“At the end of the day, with a benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do,” Andrew said in the interview of his visit with Epstein.
“But at the time I felt it was the honorable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgement was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that’s just the way it is.”
A statement by His Royal Highness The Duke of York KG. pic.twitter.com/LfMFwMyhcb
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) 20 November 2019
Epstein, 66, died in a Manhattan jail in August while awaiting trial on federal child sex trafficking charges.
That case was lodged in July, about six months after The Miami Herald published a series of stories detailing his federal prosecutors in South Florida had given Epstein a non-prosecution deal in 2007 that let him avoid much more serious charges than the ones he faces in the state case the following year.
Authorities have ruled his death was the result of a suicide by hanging. But Epstein’s brother has contested that finding, citing a privately retained forensic pathologist who said the injuries on Epstein’s neck were more consistent with those found in homicides.
On Tuesday, two guards from the Metropolitan Correctional Center were arrested on federal charges of falsifying written records in an effort to cover up the fact that they had not conducted head counts on inmates including Epstein in the hours before he was found unresponsive in that jail with a noose around his neck.
The co-executors of Epstein’s estate recently asked a judge in the U.S. Virgin Islands to approve the creation of a compensation fund for his sex abuse victims. Epstein had a private island in that American territory.
More than a dozen women are now suing Epstein’s estate, which was valued at more than $570 million.