Prince Andrew is stepping down from all his public duties effective immediately.
The Duke of York released a statement on Wednesday via Buckingham Palace, in which he wrote that his connection to his former friend, the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, has hurt the work he has been doing on behalf of the Royal Family.
“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 wrote, noting that the Queen gave him permission to step away from his public duties.
The full statement was released on the Royal Family’s Twitter page.
He continued: “I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged associated with Jeffrey Epstein. 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 also noted that he would “help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigation, if required.”
The Epstein connection
According to The Guardian, Prince Andrew met Epstein in 1999 through Epstein’s girlfriend at the time, Ghislane Maxwell.
Although we don’t know how close their friendship was, the duke was photographed opening the door to Epstein’s Manhattan home and greeting a young woman in 2010.
The two men were photographed walking together in Central Park that same year, a few years after Epstein was sent to jail in 2008, after pleading guilty to charges of solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution.
In a statement released August 24, the duke said that he had stayed at several of Epstein’s properties but that he “saw him infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year.”
Epstein was in a U.S. prison awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges when he died by suicide. Epstein’s indictment says that the 66-year-old allegedly ran a sex trafficking operation and abused dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14.
The duke has denied an allegation a then-17-year-old Virginia Giuffre (whose last name was Roberts at the time) was forced by Epstein to have sex with the prince three times between 2001 and 2002.
The BBC interview
While the prince had until recently refused to speak publicly about the allegations, aside from denials issued by the palace, over the weekend he sat down with BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis to discuss his former friendship with Epstein and the allegations against him.
During the interview, the prince denied ever meeting Giuffre. “I can absolutely, categorically tell you it never happened,” Andrew said. “I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.” He also claimed he stayed at Epstein’s home even after the jail stint because he was “honourable.”
“It was a convenient place to stay,” the prince said. “But at the time I felt it was the honourable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgment was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that’s just the way it is.”
The interview was a widely panned and the prince was criticized for seeming to show no compassion for Epstein’s alleged victims nor showing any remorse for his friendship with the late financier.
Since the interview, companies have distanced themselves from the British royal, including KPMG, AstraZeneca, Barclays, Cisco, Standard Chartered and Bosch.
And Canada’s Rideau Hall Foundation, a charity that creates initiatives around leadership and innovation, announced it wasn’t renewing its agreement with Andrew’s flagship entrepreneur initiative, Pitch@Palace.
“The Rideau Hall Foundation’s agreement with Pitch@Palace is coming to an end, and it will not be renewed for 2020. Supporting innovation and entrepreneurship is a key priority for the Rideau Hall Foundation,” according to a statement from Rideau Hall Foundation.
The prince was in Toronto in May for the Pitch@Palace event to help judge two dozen Canadian entrepreneurs’ business ideas.
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