Virginia Giuffre, an alleged victim of late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, has filed a lawsuit against Britain's Prince Andrew, alleging he raped and sexually abused her several times when she was 17 years old.
Andrew, who is Queen Elizabeth II's second son and ninth in line to the British throne, has consistently denied the accusations and has said he does not recall ever meeting Giuffre.
In the civil lawsuit filed Monday at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Virginia Giuffre, now 38, said the prince sexually abused her on multiple occasions during visits arranged by Epstein, who committed suicide in his jail cell while awaiting trial in 2019.
"I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me," Giuffre said in a statement. "The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions. I hope that other victims will see that it is possible not to live in silence and fear, but to reclaim one's life by speaking out and demanding justice."
She claims the abuse took place at Epstein's New York mansion, at his property in the Caribbean, and at the London apartment belonging to Epstein's associate, Ghislaine Maxwell.
Giuffre's lawyers filed the civil lawsuit under New York's Child Victims Act. The timing is significant, said Richard Fitzwilliams, a London-based royal analyst and commentator.
"Under that law, she was a minor at the time. There's a statute of limitations that would apply to any charges if they were not brought very shortly this month," Fitzwilliams told VOA.
U.S. law enforcement is conducting separate investigations into Epstein's crimes and his accomplices who allegedly helped to groom and traffic women and girls.
"In international law, you have to take any criminal cases first before any civil case," said Mark Stephens, a British attorney specializing in international law. "So, I think it's almost a racing certainty that this case filed by Virginia Giuffre to preserve her rights will actually be stayed until the outcome of the law enforcement investigations in the United States, and only then will it have an opportunity to go forward. But the best form of defense that Prince Andrew's lawyers have got is to delay, to obfuscate, to effectively argue over legal technicalities," Stephens told The Associated Press.
Andrew has consistently denied the claims. As a member of the royal family, he is entitled to immunity from prosecution, Stephens said.
"But, of course, I think the case is calculated by Virginia Giuffre's lawyers to ensure that maximum public pressure is put on him not to invoke his right to crown immunity."
Andrew stepped back from royal duties in 2019 following an interview with the BBC in which he strongly rejected the accusations made against him. The interview was widely seen as a public relations disaster. He has offered to help U.S. investigators, Fitzwilliams said.
"There is some sort of standoff on this issue, whether or not he is prepared, as he said he would, to cooperate with the FBI in their attempts to know more about Epstein's accomplices. The facts are, so far as has been reported, that the FBI would appear to want some form of face-to-face interview, and it may well be that Andrew has offered some form of written interview," Fitzwilliams said.
Maxwell is scheduled to stand trial in New York later this year, charged with procuring and trafficking underage girls. She has denied the charges.
"She was a close friend of Andrew's. If anything were to emerge then that we don't know, that would bring further embarrassment," Fitzwilliams told VOA.
Meanwhile, it was announced Monday that a fund to compensate Epstein's victims has paid out more than $121 million to 138 people.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.