The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to question Britain's Prince Andrew as part of its investigation into possible co-conspirators of deceased financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a U.S. law enforcement official said.
U.S. investigators want to interview Andrew, Queen Elizabeth's second son, about his friendship with Epstein, who was found dead in prison last year while awaiting charges of trafficking minors, the official, who has direct knowledge of the investigation, said on condition of anonymity.
Britain's Sun newspaper reported earlier on Monday that the DOJ had sent British authorities a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) request, used in criminal investigations to gather material from other states which cannot readily be obtained on a police cooperation basis.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment. Buckingham Palace declined to comment. Britain's Home Office (interior ministry) said it did not comment on the existence of any MLAT requests.
Andrew, 60, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, said in a public statement in November that he was stepping down from public duties because of the furore over his links to Epstein and would be willing to help "any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required".
In March, Manhattan-based U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said that despite the British royal publicly stating he would cooperate with the inquiry, the prince had "shut the door on voluntary cooperation and our office is considering its options".
"Legal discussions with the DOJ are subject to strict confidentiality rules, as set out in their own guidelines," a source close to the prince's legal team said in response to the Sun report.
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"We have chosen to abide by both the letter and the spirit of these rules, which is why we have made no comment about anything related to the DOJ during the course of this year. We believe in playing straight bat."
If the MLAT request was granted, U.S. prosecutors could ask for Andrew to voluntarily attend an interview to give a statement or potentially force him to attend a court to provide evidence under oath.
A U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation probe is focusing on British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime associate of Epstein's, and others who facilitated the wealthy financier's alleged trafficking of underage girls, law enforcement sources told Reuters in December.
Ghislaine, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, has denied the allegations against her.