Prince Andrew will step back from public duties “for the foreseeable future” over heavy criticism he has faced for his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, he said in a statement on Wednesday.
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“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 statement from the prince read.
He said he asked Queen Elizabeth if he may step back from his public duties, and she gave her permission.
The prince, who is the queen’s third child, added that he continues to “unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein” and noted that he was willing to help law enforcement with their investigations if needed.
Epstein died in prison from an apparent suicide on Aug. 10.
“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 in a statement. “I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives.”
In a high-stakes interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. on Saturday, the prince categorically denied allegations he had sex on multiple occasions with an American teenager who’s claimed she was trafficked to the prince at the direction of Epstein.
“I’ve said consistently and frequently that we never had any sort of sexual contact whatever,” the prince said, responding to a question about allegations from Virginia Roberts Giuffre.
Giuffre has claimed in court records and deposition testimony she had sex with the prince on two occasions when she was 17, in London and in New York, and a third time when she was 18, at Epstein’s private island estate in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Epstein, a convicted sex offender, died in prison in August.
Asked by BBC presenter Emily Maitlis about those allegations, the prince replied, “No. All of it. Absolutely no to all of it.”
While denying the allegations against him personally, the prince stopped short of saying he regretted his long friendship with Epstein.
“Now, still not,” the prince said. “And the reason being is that the people that I met, and the opportunities that I was given to learn, either by him or because of him, were actually very useful.”
The prince added: “We weren’t that close.”
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 plead guilty to two comparatively minor charges in Florida state court. He served just 13 months of an 18-month term in a county jail and had to register as a sex offender.
He was charged again, in July of this year, in a two-count federal indictment for child sex-trafficking and conspiracy for alleged crimes in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005.
Prince Andrew, who said he’d met Epstein in 1999, first became embroiled in the controversy in late 2010 when he was photographed walking with the convicted sex offender through New York’s Central Park shortly after Epstein’s sentence ended in Florida.
The prince claimed in the BBC interview that the purpose of that visit was to inform Epstein he could no longer be associated with him due to his criminal conduct.
“I felt that doing it over the telephone was the chicken’s way of doing it,” the prince added. “I had to go and see him and talk to him.”
The prince has said he never witnessed any of the criminal conduct that Epstein was convicted of or was accused of.