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Prince Andrew denies knowing of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking of underage girls

Prince Andrew denies knowing of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking of underage girls
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LONDON — Prince Andrew, facing intensifying scrutiny of his ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, broke a long silence Saturday to say that he never saw or suspected any behaviour involving the sexual trafficking and exploitation of underage girls during their long friendship.

The prince’s statement, which was issued in his own name instead of by Buckingham Palace, was by far the most comprehensive account he has offered of their friendship. Yet Andrew offered no new explanation for continuing a relationship with Epstein after the financier emerged from a Florida jail in 2010 following a sex crime conviction.

The 59-year-old second son of Queen Elizabeth II has been under growing pressure since Epstein’s arrest last month in New York on sex trafficking charges.

I deplore the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in, or encourage any such behaviour

Lawyers for Epstein’s accusers have demanded that Andrew disclose whatever he knows about the financier’s behaviour, even more pointedly since Epstein’s suicide this month in a New York jail.

One of the accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffree, said in legal filings in 2015 that when she was 17, Epstein lent her to Andrew for sexual exploitation on multiple occasions. She has released a photograph from 2001 showing Andrew standing in a London apartment with his hand around her bare midriff.

A second woman, Johanna Sjoberg, has said in filings in the same case that, also in 2001, Andrew posed for another photograph touching her breast while at the same time touching the breast of Giuffrie with a puppet of himself.

The prince has repeatedly denied both allegations.

“I deplore the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in, or encourage any such behaviour,” he said Saturday in his statement about Epstein.

Epstein had served an 18-month jail sentence before his 2010 release. He had pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution and had registered as a sex offender as part of a deal with federal prosecutors in Florida to resolve more severe charges.

A representative of Buckingham Palace said in a separate statement Saturday that a single visit in 2010 had been the only one the prince had made to Epstein after his conviction and jail sentence. But around the same time, the prince helped arrange for Epstein to make a payment of 15,000 pounds (about $24,500) to help pay down debts accumulated by the prince’s ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson.

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