Prince Andrew has already lost his case in the court of public opinion. His floundering and implausible BBC interview about his long friendship with Jeffrey Epstein saw to that. ‘Randy Andy’ also seems to have forfeited the confidence of his own family: after the interview was broadcast, he was summoned to Buckingham Palace and relieved of his public duties. After last night, and a second broadcast by the BBC’s investigative Panorama program, The Prince and the Epstein, it is impossible not to conclude that Andrew is an unreliable witness to his own life: on screen, Andrew’s already flimsy alibis dissolved in the acid of Panorama’s evidence and testimonies.
Five women want to call on Prince Andrew as a witness into Epstein’s alleged crimes. Andrew was by his own admission a friend of Epstein’s — since the late Nineties, he claimed last month; since 1991, an aide informed the London Times when Epstein had yet to be convicted as a pederast. Andrew was by his own admission a close friend for three decades of Epstein’s girlfriend-turned-pimp Ghislaine Maxwell. That part he remembers.
Andrew claims to have ‘no recollection’ of meeting Virginia Giuffre Roberts who, in Panorama’s words, was allegedly ‘trafficked to London to have sex with Prince Andrew’ in March 2001 when she was 17 years of age. Maxwell, Roberts alleged to Panorama, was pressured to do this by Maxwell. Andrew’s courtiers have explicitly dismissed the now-notorious photograph from that night, showing Andrew with his hand around Roberts’s waist, as a recent forgery. Pressed at interview, Andrew hedged and said that we ‘can’t see if that’s faked or not’. Panorama produced a 2001 affidavit from Roberts’s then-boyfriend, confirming that he had seen that photograph shortly after it had been taken.
Roberts’s story is harrowing: abused at seven, abused on the streets, and then, when she had managed to get her life in order at 17, pimped by Maxwell from the locker room at Mar-a-Lago as a ‘gift’ to Epstein, to be abused by him and Maxwell and Epstein who, she alleges, jointly assaulted her over a period of years. Testimonies from other victims and witnesses confirm this pattern.
Another victim described Andrew’s good friend Ghislaine Maxwell as ‘the madam’ who ‘knew what Jeffrey liked’ and who ‘maintained Jeffrey’s standard by intimidating the girls’. Ghislaine also knew what Andrew liked. Ghislaine introduced Virginia Giuffre Roberts to Epstein and taught her how to ‘massage’ him; she also introduced Andrew to Epstein. In 1999, Andrew invited Epstein and Maxwell to the royal palace of Balmoral and, as photographs aired for the first time on Panorama show, racing at Royal Ascot. The year ended with Epstein and Maxwell joining Andrew at another palace, Sandringham, for a shooting weekend.
Andrew insists he has an alibi for that night in March 2001. He recalls that he took his daughter to a pizza party that afternoon and, as the Duchess of York was away, he would have been sure to ‘honor our agreement’ that one parent would always be at home at their palace outside London. We have only Andrew’s word for this.
Andrew claims he knew nothing about Epstein and Maxwell’s sustained criminality. But according to Panorama, the neighbors and the local handyman knew ‘exactly what was going on’: as many as three or four girls would come and go each day at Epstein’s Palm Beach house. So how didn’t Andrew know?
Andrew admits to having visited the Palm Beach house, some of whose walls are decorated with images of naked women, four times. ‘Prince Andrew spent weeks with us,’ Epstein’s housekeeper recalled in a legal deposition, and received ‘daily massages’. Panorama has asked Andrew if he had ever had a massage at one of Epstein’s properties. The prince has not replied.
Roberts claims that she was also forced to take part with Andrew in an orgy at one of Epstein’s private islands in 2001. Another victim describes the villa as being ‘full of condoms’ and ‘set up for an orgy’. Andrew admits having visited the villa, but seems not to have noticed the ‘set-up’.
In his BBC interview, Andrew admitted that he had visited Epstein for four days in New York City despite Epstein’s conviction as a sex offender: ‘I admit fully that my judgment was probably colored by my tendency to be too honorable.’ But how honorable is Andrew really?
Another friend, Epstein’s erstwhile lawyer Alan Dershowitz, described Prince Andrew as having hoped to be ‘educated’ by Epstein in ‘financial matters’. Andrew’s financial opportunism, long an embarrassment to his family, was on display in Monday’s London Telegraph, in a report alleging that ‘Air-Miles Andy’ had a 40 percent stake in an ‘investment fund’ in the Cayman Islands set up by David Rowland, a wealthy British financier; and that when Andrew went to China, Rowland’s son Jonathan accompanied him and added a meeting with a potential investor, a Chinese billionaire, to the prince’s schedule.
The Telegraph also alleged that one of Andrew’s aides shared with Jonathan Rowland confidential government documents describing Andrew’s conversations with senior Chinese politicians. Rowland’s father, the Telegraph says, is ‘alleged to have paid £40,000 [about $50,000] to help clear the Duchess of York’s debts’. Jeffrey Epstein also chipped in to reduce those debts.
This squalid chicanery gives a whole different meaning to Virginia Giuffre Roberts’s claim to have been appalled that ‘people at the highest level of government’ knew what Epstein and Maxwell were up to, and ‘actually participated’ in it. The public and private aspects of Andrew’s life are inevitably linked: the man who performed the civic duty is the same man who has perfect recall of having taken his daughter to a pizzeria and who, Roberts alleges, had sex with her ‘three times’.
‘It all just stinks,’ says Chris Bryant, who was a Foreign Office minister at the time of Andrew’s China trip. ‘I don’t think he has ever been able to draw a distinction between his own personal interest and the national interest.’ That now seems more true than ever –- and the nature of Andrew’s private interests has never seemed more dubious. Is he steeling himself to do the right thing and talk to the FBI — or is he steeling himself for further revelations? As Panorama noted, the police found recording equipment at Epstein’s Caribbean villa.