MANHATTAN (CN) — After federal prosecutors in New York revealed Britain’s Prince Andrew will not cooperate with the Jeffrey Epstein investigation, experts called their surprise rebuke of the royal family member extraordinarily rare.
Prince Andrew, who is Queen Elizabeth II’s second son, has been scrambling to recover from a BBC interview in November, widely panned as a public-relations disaster.
During part of that interview, Andrew had indicated that he would cooperate with U.S. prosecutors looking into his friendship with Epstein, a convicted pedophile found dead in his jail cell last summer while awaiting sex-trafficking charges.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman splashed cold water on the prince’s public announcement at an unrelated press conference on Monday.
“Contrary to Prince Andrew’s very public offer to cooperate with our investigation into Epstein’s co-conspirators, an offer that was conveyed via press release, Prince Andrew has now completely shut the door on voluntary cooperation and our office is considering its options,” Berman told reporters.
That declaration raised the eyebrows of former federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, where Berman currently presides.
“I agree with the tactic here,” ex-prosecutor Elie Honig said in a phone interview, referring to calling out of the Queen’s son at a press conference.
“I think it’s the right tactic,” Honig continued, before adding: “I think it’s really unusual.”
For years, a woman named Virginia Giuffre has claimed that Epstein trafficked her to the prince.
Though Andrew has categorically denied the accusations, he nevertheless defended his friendship with Epstein to the BBC late last year. Publicly the prince insisted he had been transparent with authorities, but prosecutors say he privately cut off lines of communications.
“I applaud Geoffrey Berman for not allowing Prince Andrew to put on a public face of cooperation when really he’s stonewalling,” Honig said.
Such public shaming itself marks an escalation of tactics, former prosecutors note, but there may be others at the Southern District’s disposal.
“In theory, if he comes to the U.S., he could be arrested pursuant to a material-witness warrant,” former prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers explained in a text message.
Both Honig and Rodgers raised the possibility of prosecutors attempting to question the prince via MLAT, short for mutual legal assistance treaties, a process both agreed to be potentially time-consuming and cumbersome. It would also require the United Kingdom’s help.
“It’s hard to see them forcing Andrew’s cooperation unless they view him as toxic,” Rodgers wrote.
The Southern District of New York declined to comment.
On Friday, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported that Andrew hired Clare Montgomery, a lawyer the paper described as an expert on extradition law. A spokeswoman for Montgomery’s firm, Matrix Chambers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours in London.