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US Department of Justice hits back at Prince Andrew’s claim he has ‘attempted to cooperate’ with Epstein investigation

The US Department of Justice has responded to claims made by Prince Andrew through his legal team that he has offered his cooperation in the ongoing Jeffrey Epstein investigation.

The statement, released by US attorney Geoffrey Berman, says the Duke of York has declined the department's request for an interview.

It also claims that nearly four months ago, Andrew informed them unequivocally, through the very same counsel that issued the latest release, that he would not come in for such an interview.

"If Prince Andrew is in fact serious about cooperating with the ongoing federal investigation, our doors remain open and we await word of when we should expect him," Berman says.

There are, however, no plans to extradite the royal to the US for the investigation.

On Monday, Andrew's legal team hit out at claims by the department that the royal has been uncooperative in the investigations into Epstein, a convicted sex offender.

UK firm Blackfords released their first public statement on the issue on Monday afternoon local time (about 2am Tuesday AEST) in response to what they said have been "misleading media briefings".

The statement claimed that although the Epstein investigation has been ongoing for "more than 16 years", the Duke was not asked to assist until January 2.

"Importantly, the DOJ advised us that the Duke is not and has never been a 'target' of their criminal investigations into Epstein and that they sought his confidential, voluntary co-operation," the statement said.

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"The Duke of York has on at least three occasions this year offered his assistance as a witness to the DOJ.

"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."

Blackmans criticised comments from US attorney Geoffrey Berman about "a wall of silence" and "zero cooperation" from Prince Andrew, who, Berman implied, had "completely shut the door" on working with US officials.

"These statements were inaccurate, and they should not have been made," Blackmans wrote on Monday.

"Far from our client acting above the law, as has been implied by press briefings in the US, he is being treated by a lower standard than might reasonably be expected for any other citizen."

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Blackmans went on to state that DOJ "breaches of confidentiality" have created "an entirely misleading account" of Prince Andrew's involvement with the investigation.

According to CNN, Buckingham Palace and the UK Home Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Though Epstein died in August 2019 while awaiting trial on federal charges that he sexually abused underage girls and ran a sex-trafficking ring, prosecutors have continued to pursue investigations of people who they believe helped Epstein carry out an alleged multi-year sex trafficking operation.

Prince Andrew has come under public pressure to explain his relationship with Epstein and allegations by one of his accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre. She has alleged that she was forced into sexual encounters with the prince while she was underage.

In a 2015 federal court filing, Giuffre alleged Epstein forced her to perform sex acts with several prominent men, including Prince Andrew in 2001. All of them have denied the allegations.

In a November BBC interview, Prince Andrew said he had never met Giuffre and suggested that a photo of the two of them may have been doctored.

"I can tell you categorically I don't remember meeting her at all. I do not remember a photograph being taken and I've said consistently and frequently that we never had any sort of sexual contact whatever," he said.

He also said after he appeared on BBC that he was "willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required."

The prince said he would be willing to testify or give a statement under oath about the case, but he would "have to take all the legal advice that there was... But if push came to shove and the legal advice was to do so, then I would be duty bound to do so."

The FBI and federal prosecutors subsequently contacted Prince Andrew's lawyer to interview the prince about Epstein, but Prince Andrew's team provided "zero" cooperation, according to US Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan, who took the rare step of publicly announcing his frustrations with the situation.

"It's fair for people to know whether Prince Andrew has followed through with that public commitment," Berman said at a news conference in January outside Epstein's Manhattan mansion.

"To date Prince Andrew has provided zero cooperation."

Almost two months later, Berman said Prince Andrew had "completely shut the door" on voluntarily cooperating with his investigation and said his office was "considering its options." But Prince Andrew's legal team responded Monday that "these statements were inaccurate, and they should not have been made."

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