The U.S. Department of Justice issued a formal request to question Britain’s Prince Andrew as part of the government's ongoing investigation into possible co-conspirators of convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, according to a law enforcement official.
The formal action comes after federal prosecutors alleged that Andrew, known as the Duke of York, failed to respond to earlier Justice Department inquiries about his friendship with Epstein, who was found dead of an apparent suicide while in jail last August awaiting charges of sex trafficking and sexual abuse.
In November, Queen Elizabeth's second son stepped down from public duties due to the scandal over his friendship with Epstein and allegations that he had sexual encounters with a 17-year-old girl about 20 years ago.
Investigators have not accused Andrew of any wrongdoing, and he has said that he would help "any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations if required."
Andrew has denied having sex with Virginia Roberts Giuffre. She alleges Epstein forced her to have sex with the prince and that the encounters happened in London, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Despite the pledge to cooperate, in March, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said the prince had provided "zero cooperation" to the FBI and "shut the door on voluntary cooperation.” Berman said his office is “considering its options."
Andrew's lawyers hit back at these claims Monday, suggesting that U.S. prosecutors were seeking publicity rather than the royal's cooperation.
"The Duke of York has on at least three occasions this year offered his assistance as a witness to the DOJ," said Blackfords, the London-based law firm representing Andrew, in a statement.
"Unfortunately, the DOJ has reacted to the first two offers by breaching their own confidentiality rules and claiming that the Duke has offered zero cooperation. In doing so, they are perhaps seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered," the statement said.
The request, initiated by federal prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, is part of a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) request, an agreement to gather and exchange information in criminal investigations between two counties, submitted to Britain’s Home Office, according to the source.
If the MLAT request is approved, U.S. prosecutors could potentially force Andrew to go to court to provide evidence under oath.
Prosecutors have vowed to continue the investigation, bringing renewed attention to several prominent people in Epstein's orbit, including Andrew and socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.
Maxwell faces several lawsuits and has denied all allegations against her.