British authorities shielded Prince Andrew from US prosecutors investigating his relationship with stockbroker and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, according to a new book by a US lawyer who led the investigation in New York.
Geoffrey Berman was fired as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) in June 2020. He is now the author of Holding the Line: Inside the Nation’s Preeminent US Attorney’s Office and its Battle with the Trump Justice Department on Tuesday .
Berman’s claims of political interference in America’s most recognized jurisdiction of law have already sparked news of a Senate investigation.
His claims of obstruction in the matter of Prince Andrew and Epstein could upset a royal family dealing with the Queen’s death.
Before participating in mourning ceremonies, Andrew had rarely appeared in public since agreeing to a multimillion-dollar settlement with an Epstein victim who accused the prince of sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager – an allegation the prince vehemently denied.
Berman says SDNY prosecutors were willing to talk to Andrew about his friendship with Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s ex-girlfriend, who in New York in June was sentenced to 20 years in prison on sex-trafficking charges.
Andrew, writes Berman, “publicly stated that he would cooperate with the investigation, and we intended to give him an opportunity to keep his word.”
But although the prince “publicly said he was cooperating with the Epstein investigation,” Berman writes, that “wasn’t true.”
Berman says he asked his team to reach out in November 2019 after Andrew gave a lengthy (and devastating) interview to the BBC.
Two New York prosecutors “spent about two weeks trying to find out who his lawyers were,” Berman says. “We tried to call Buckingham Palace and they didn’t help us. We tried the DOJ attaché and the State Department, no luck. When we finally got to his lawyers, they had all these questions.”
Berman says “an endless exchange of emails” made it clear we were accepting the risk” from lawyers who didn’t want the prince to talk to the SDNY about Epstein.
“He wasn’t going to sit down with us,” Berman writes, “even though he assured the audience he was ready, willing and able to cooperate.”
Berman says a comment he made to reporters in January 2020, that Andrew had provided “zero cooperation,” brought the prince’s lawyers back to the table. But no interview followed.
The SDNY then tried to get the prince to cooperate, using an M-LAT or “mutual legal assistance treaty” request through the US State Department. Berman says such requests have always worked before.
“But that was not the case with Prince Andrew,” she writes. “We didn’t get anywhere. Were they protecting him? I guess someone was.’
Noting a protest from Andrew’s lawyers in June 2020 that the SDNY was seeking publicity rather than “the assistance offered,” Berman says, “Just to be clear: no assistance was offered.”
He also says the SDNY is not interested in a written statement from the prince, as “that’s not how we do inquiries, even for British royals.”
Consistent with his other allegations of Trump administration interference in the SDNY, Berman also says the man who fired him, then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr, saw the Epstein case as a useful pawn in a political game with the British government .
Barr, writes Berman, explained “that he saw our request to speak to Andrew as a sort of ploy in a dispute with the British involving the wife of an American diplomat who had accidentally killed a 19-year-old British motorcyclist in a car accident.”
It refers to the case of Harry Dunn, who was killed in a collision with a car driven by Ann Sakulas, an American citizen whom the Trump administration has refused to extradite to face charges, citing diplomatic immunity.
“Barr told me that the public rift over Prince Andrew’s refusal to sit for an interview was helpful in this other case,” Berman writes. “It caused PR damage, it was my impression, and it made it more palatable for management to stand firm.”
Berman says this approach “seemed questionable to me, but it didn’t affect our approach with Prince Andrew. I still wanted to interview him, but it had nothing to do with Barr’s agenda.”