Weeks after a video of a US news anchor emerged claiming an interview with Jeffery Epstein's accuser was scrapped due to threats from the Buckingham Palace, Prince Andrew said he doesn't remember ever meeting her in an interview aired on Friday.
In a recent interview on BBC Newsnight, which is scheduled to be broadcasted on Saturday, he said he has "no recollection" of meeting Virginia Giuffre. "I kick myself for (it) on a daily basis because it was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family," Andrew said, "and we try and uphold the highest standards and practices and I let the side down, simple as that," he was quoted as saying.
Giuffre had stated that Epstein paid her $15,000 after she was coerced into having sexual intercourse with the prince when she was 17. She and several other women's accounts led to Epstein's conviction under Florida state charges in 2008 of soliciting prostitution and of soliciting an underage girl into prostitution. Investigation revealed that the multimillionaire hedge fund manager, who was friends with Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, used to coerce underage girls into sex in his properties.
Virginia Giuffre, earlier named Roberts, had claimed that she was trafficked by Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell into performing sex acts with him and high profile men. She said she had sexual encounters with men including the Duke of York, Prince Andrew in London, US Virgin Islands and New York in exchange for payments.
Prince Andrew denies Giuffre's claims
Giuffre has produced a 2001 photo showing her posing with the prince in London and has repeatedly challenged the Buckingham Palace and held him responsible for being silent over the years despite knowing the number of underage girls who were sex trafficked. "He knows exactly what he's done, and I hope he comes clean about it," she was quoted as saying.
While Epstein served 18 months in jail, due to a non-prosecution agreement deal, an FBI probe into the victims and powerful personalities who were complicit in Epstein's sex crimes was dropped. In a widely criticised deal, four of his accomplices were granted immunity from all federal criminal charges. He committed suicide in August at a New York jail after facing fresh child sex trafficking charges.
In an address at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland's Davos in 2015, Andrew publicly denied Giuffre's claims. In August, the prince stated that he used to meet Epstein "infrequently" in 1999 and saw him once or twice each year. He also regretted meeting Epstein after his release from Prison in 2010 and called it "a mistake and an error."
The Buckingham Palace has called the allegations "false" and "without foundation". "It is emphatically denied that The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation," a Palace spokesperson as quoted as saying to CNN.
However earlier this month, in a video circulated by the right-wing group, Project Veritas, host of ABC's "20/20" programme Amy Robach was seen complaining in August about her interview with Virginia Giuffre in 2015. She the interview was never aired after "the Palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew and threatened us a million different ways."
Robach also said she was told "who's Jeffrey Epstein? No one knows who that is. This is a stupid story" by the senior editors. She said the news network feared that airing the interview would kill future chances of interviewing Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The incident is being linked with Ronan Farrow who accused NBC News of not carrying forth the investigative reporting on powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct that led to the #MeToo Movement. Farrow later took the story to the New Yorker magazine which won him the Pulitzer Prize in 2018.