It’s the biggest scandal to hit the Windsors since the death of Princess Diana — and could yet prove to be the most damaging to a senior royal since the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936.
The revelations that Prince Andrew, currently eighth in line to the throne, was not only friendly with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and his alleged madam but, so it is alleged, may have been a participant in the sexual exploitation of a 17-year-old girl, has Buckingham Palace reeling — even more so amid reports that the FBI is not done and will expand its investigation into the disgraced financier, who took his own life in a Manhattan prison cell in August.
A friend of the queen told the British Sunday Times newspaper: “You’ve got a serious crime linked to the kind of behavior towards women that people feel particularly strongly about at the moment. Andrew’s association with [Epstein] is deeply damaging.”
The allegations stem from court papers filed in Florida by Virginia Roberts Giuffre in 2015. She says she was forced to have sex with Andrew on three separate occasions — in London, New York, and on Epstein’s private Caribbean island — when she was still a teenager.
Speaking in August last year at a Manhattan hearing, Giuffre said of the prince: “He knows exactly what’s he done, and I hope he comes clean about it.”
Prince Andrew strenuously denies all the allegations against him — but so seriously is the Palace taking the scandal, it has been forced to issue a string of extraordinary statements, with the most recent signed by the prince himself. He stated that he saw Epstein “probably no more than only once or twice a year,” and that, “at no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behavior” related to Epstein’s trafficking and sexual abuse of underage girls.
He concluded: “I am at a loss to be able to understand or explain Mr. Epstein’s lifestyle. I deplore the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in, or encourage any such behavior.”
Royal watchers in the U.K. remain unconvinced, however.
“This isn’t going away,” continues the Palace insider. “There is a need for him to do or say something more than the statements that have been put out so far.”
From all accounts, Andrew met financier Jeffrey Epstein in 1999, through the now jailed socialite Maxwell, daughter of disgraced publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell. The prince at that time held the official role of trade envoy, charged with encouraging investment in British business around the world. His activities were already raising eyebrows: A string of associations with dubious characters, including the son of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi — as well as rumors about his colorful private life — had earned him several unflattering nicknames, including “Air Miles Andy” and “Randy Andy.”
In his book Andrew: The Playboy Prince, royal biographer Andrew Morton described a trip to Pensacola, Fla., during which the prince visited a topless “go-go” club, where a dancer declared afterward: “Now I know where he gets his Randy Andy nickname.”
The prince and the pedophile appeared to get on famously and throughout 1999 and 2000 were spotted together at locations including President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and on a yacht off Phuket, Thailand.
Andrew also hosted Epstein and Maxwell at the royals’ Balmoral and Sandringham estates, inviting them to a lavish “Dance of the Decades” party at Windsor Castle to celebrate the birthdays of Andrew, Prince Charles, Princess Margaret, and Prince William in June 2000.
Andrew was also allegedly a guest at several of Epstein’s residences, including his private Caribbean island, Little St. James, nicknamed by staff “Orgy Island.” But it was his continued association with Epstein after the financier had been found guilty of soliciting an underage girl for prostitution in 2008 that caused most alarm.
“After Jeffrey was convicted, I phoned Andrew and told him: ‘You cannot have a relationship with Jeffrey,’” an acquaintance of the prince later said.
“He said: ‘Stop giving me a hard time… Jeffrey’s my friend. Being loyal to your friends is a virtue.’” So loyal was the prince, in fact, that he was to be a guest at Epstein’s “Welcome Home” party at his Manhattan mansion following his release from jail in 2010.
“The Duke of York has never been one to take advice that doesn’t suit him, and he doesn’t hold back in letting you know what to do with advice that he doesn’t want to hear,” a former royal aide told The Sunday Times.
The following year, it emerged that Andrew’s ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, had accepted a £15,000 loan from Epstein, in a deal brokered by the prince.
The trouble for Andrew really began in 2015, however, when he was named in court papers by Virginia Roberts Giuffre as part of her civil case against Maxwell.The details were later struck from the court records after a judge ruled they were “immaterial and impertinent” to the case — but the damage had been done, and the press was quick to seize upon the story.
In a sensational interview with America’s notorious tabloid the National Enquirer, Giuffre laid out in explicit detail her three alleged sexual encounters with the prince. A photo of Andrew with his hand around her waist as a grinning Maxwell looked on also emerged.
Buckingham Palace issued outright denials of all the allegations, insisting Andrew did not have “any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts” and adding that the accusations were “false and without any foundation.”
Perhaps most damaging, however, was the release this summer of a video showing Andrew at Epstein’s New York townhouse in 2010. In it, the prince can be seen waving goodbye to a young woman his lawyers insist that the plaintiff — that’s Ms. Roberts — jump through a lot of legal hoops and try to get a court to order him to appear, which is not easy because he’s in another country.
“Or he could just say, ‘I have nothing to hide. I consent. I accept the subpoena. I’ll be happy to provide my deposition,’ which is testimony under oath. He could do that. I think he should do that. Whether he will do that is another question.”
Is Andrew simply guilty of excessive loyalty? Or something altogether darker?
The sensational arrest of Maxwell on July 2 on multiple charges related to the sexual abuse of young women and girls by Epstein could provide the answer.
While it had initially been suggested Maxwell’s arrest was the end game in The Justice Department’s pursuit of co-conspirators in the case of the convicted pedophile, in recent months, Grazia has learned the FBI’s investigation remains active. Which should make Andrew nervous if Maxwell chooses to sing like a bird.
The Southern District of New York, the notoriously tough prosecutorial body who oversaw the Epstein investigation, is known for prosecuting cases they think are unimpeachable if they were ever to go to trial. That means they likely have testimony from dozens of witnesses that place Maxwell firmly up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
Thus, it’s a big if.
Most crooks whom the SDNY indict end up taking a plea deal knowing that if their case were to be played out before a jury, they would almost certainly suffer a harsher sentence than if they were to admit wrongdoing.
So, as the British socialite sits behind bars without bail at Merrimack County Jail in New Hampshire, she is no doubt mulling just what to do next about the six-count indictment that alleged:
She groomed three unnamed girls, all under the age of 18, in London, New York, and Florida, and New Mexico between 1994 and 1997;
She befriended them by taking them to the movies or on shopping sprees and ‘normalized’ abusive behavior by getting undressed in front of them herself;
She encouraged them to travel to meet Epstein and engage in sex acts with them and him like ‘group massage sex’ in Epstein’s homes;
Her introduction of them to him resulted in him abusing them when she was not present; and
She lied in 2016 depositions while being sued by Virginia Giuffre Roberts that she’d never groomed or had sex with underage girls herself.
Maxwell has denied she did anything wrong.
If she were to be convicted of all these charges, it’s doubtful she would ever leave prison again. And her options are limited.
First, Maxwell could accept a plea bargain if offered, pleading guilty to certain charges in exchange for concessions from the prosecution. These concessions could include an agreement to seek a lower sentence or to convict her only of a lesser crime than the one with which she was originally charged. Regardless, freedom for the “socialite” would inevitably still be a long time coming.
Second, Maxwell could choose to fight the indictment in court. To most defense attorneys, this would seem like a foolish move. If convicted, the 58-year-old faces 35 years in prison — almost certainly what’s left of her life.
What’s more, the evidence against her seems to be compelling and overwhelming — proving not only was she a madam, but she was also an utterly depraved pedophile.
“I believe we will learn the SDNY afforded other alleged co-conspirators, who could have been considered of less interest to prosecutors, various forms of immunity if they agreed to turn federal witness against Maxwell before the Grand Jury that rendered the indictment,” a source said. That’s how cases against “targets” like this are assembled — like a series of building blocks.
From the threat of prosecution, comes cooperation from “witnesses” or “subjects” of the investigation. That block gets added to the stack of assembled evidence, leads law-enforcement officials to new evidence, and edges them closer to proving “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the main target is guilty of a crime.
Maxwell’s major error was excessive hubris — and a failure to understand just how determined the SDNY was in this case. A source close to Maxwell has told me that she believed she’d never be charged because the plea deal Epstein took in 2007 included non-prosecution provisions for himself and ‘others,’ i.e. alleged co-conspirators.
That agreement included unusual language; the ‘others’ were never identified or named, leading many to suspect that the deal covered up a larger sex trafficking operation.
After Epstein’s dramatic arrest on the tarmac of Teterboro airport on July 6 last year, Maxwell asked her lawyers for the 411. They believed — and continue to believe — there was no legal basis to invalidate Epstein’s non-prosecution agreement that then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta agreed to.
In the months before her arrest, Maxwell also sought the counsel of Alan Dershowitz, a former lawyer for Epstein, who believed the deal was secure and would maintain her freedom, a source told Grazia.
Of course, the SDNY doesn’t believe that to be valid. It challenged that very notion with Epstein’s arrest on federal charges for the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. So, just as they did with Epstein, prosecutors will argue that the 2008 deal only applied to the specific U.S. attorney’s office in Florida that made the agreement — not all 94 federal prosecutors’ offices in the country.
If the court agrees, that could open the flood gates to a number of cases being re-litigated in other jurisdictions.
As a matter of law — put simply, whether that plea deal was and is still binding — this ultimately has not yet been tested in court, as Epstein was found dead in his cell before he could come to trial, after apparently killing himself last August.
Gerald Lefcourt, one of Epstein’s lawyers who negotiated that original agreement, told the Associated Press that he “would never have signed the agreement or recommended it unless we believed that it resolved what it said: all federal and state criminal liability.”
As the AP reported on July 3: In Maxwell’s indictment, the New York prosecutors appeared to build in an insurance policy — deliberately charging her with crimes occurring in the 1990s, a time period slightly before the activities with underage girls that were the subject of Epstein’s 2008 guilty plea.
If a judge were to rule that the New York prosecutors were indeed bound by the non-prosecution agreement, they could then argue that “this stuff happened before, so it’s not covered and therefore Maxwell’s not protected,” former Miami federal prosecutor David Weinstein said.
Based on counsel’s advice, Maxwell was so confident that the prior deal would save her, she chose not to do what would’ve seemed obvious — use her vast resources to board a private jet and flee to France where the extradition process is notoriously arduous.
Don’t forget the famous film director Roman Polanski’s great vanishing act. Before he could face justice after pleading guilty to statutory rape of a 13-year old girl in 1977 at actor Jack Nicholson’s home, he fled the US. Despite numerous legal attempts to bring him back to face the courts, the French-Polish national has been residing in France ever since.
Surely if Maxwell believed she was facing criminal exposure, she would have used all her means — including her French citizenship and more than 15 bank accounts with balances ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $20 million — to evade justice?
Instead, Maxwell chose to remain on a 156-acre property in Bradford, New Hampshire, that was purchased for more than $1 million in cash through a limited liability corporation last December. And, put simply, that is why she’s now behind bars.
There is, however, a third option for Maxwell. She could turn whistle blower and lay out exactly how the Epstein-Maxwell blackmail and sex trafficking network operated and just who else was involved, including the many high-powered figures and notable names who until now have avoided arrest.
To do that, she would have to name names — and turn on friends and frenemies alike.
At last, we could learn the truth about Prince Andrew, Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, billionaire hedge funder Glenn Dubin, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Larry Summers, the ex-Harvard President, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, Leslie Wexner, the Victoria’s Secret retail tycoon, and many others whose names figure in Epstein’s “little black book” of contacts. (It’s critical to note all of these men have denied any wrongdoing with regard to their involvement with Epstein and Co.)
Maxwell will be loath to do this. As one source told me: “Maxwell will never turn on Prince Andrew — and most likely not Clinton.”
But she’s unlikely to have a choice.
If you tell on one, you must tell on all. The SDNY will not let her cherry-pick who it is she throws under the bus or protects. A lot of very big names should be very nervous right now.
Since inmate 76318–054 was found dead at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, Maxwell has been the sole custodian of the “empire of dirt” that Epstein built up over more than three decades working as an intelligence source for Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and others.
Epstein was not only complex, damaged, and controlling; he was also incredibly calculating and predatory. He reveled in his status as a globe-trotting pedophile. He used his power to exploit the vulnerable and underaged, all the while hiding in plain sight within the innermost circles of the establishment. He used his access to trap the rich and famous and traded in the dirt he had on them to the world’s most secretive intelligence agencies.
It is how he and Maxwell amassed their respective fortunes, as was revealed in the best-selling book Epstein: Dead Men Tell No Tales. In the wake of his death, Maxwell rose to the top of the food chain. With her arrest, the Southern District of New York secured its №1 target. She alone now has the power to reveal all.
Without her explicit testimony under oath, it would be an epic legal and political struggle to call many of the accused to account for their misdeeds, as we are witnessing with the battle royal between Prince Andrew and the SDNY. Following Maxwell’s arrest, Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the SDNY, said she “would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us.”
But where things get really complicated is when you consider just how invested law-enforcement officials might actually be to cut a deal with Maxwell to sing, if they’ve already got a slam dunk case against her, the big fish? Sure, the SDNY might like the dirt, and there could be some consequential charges laid against prominent individuals as a result, such as Andrew, but Maxwell’s inevitable incarceration represents the justice to the victims that were lost when Epstein died. Whatever further arrests — no matter how sensational — her telling all might provide, convicting Maxwell remains the primary target.
It is a fascinating legal (and moral) tightrope — for Maxwell, the SDNY and its parent The Justice Department, overseen by William Barr, alike. And whichever defense strategy she chooses, it seems almost inevitable that Maxwell will be convicted of a more unofficial crime: Epstein’s partner in crime.
That might be enough for The Justice Department, because diving headlong down the Epstein rabbit hole might take them to a more sinister place, filled with many inconvenient truths.
With Epstein and Maxwell known spies — who ran a complex intelligence operation for the purpose of blackmailing powerful individuals and politicians in the United States and abroad — her telling all would expose the secrets that helped enable one of the world’s worst sexual predators to roam free for decades on American soil. That espionage scandal would be so enthralling it could forever tarnish the legacies of a number of extremely powerful high-profile individuals and noted law enforcement officials — the same people who were supposed to enforce the law and defend the interests of the American people.
Will Maxwell cut a deal and throw Andrew to the wolves? Will she fight the charges? Does the SDNY even want to deal? Will she spill all she knows, no matter what the consequences? Will she even be allowed to? Stay tuned. The next steps will be crucial.