PRINCE ANDREW & JEFFREY EPSTEIN: Palace in a corner as new allegations surface

andyjeffWas it just friendship – or was it blackmail? And who was blackmailing who?

Don’t be too easily persuaded that the Prince Andrew/Jeffrey Epstein saga is chiefly a sex scandal: while the braindead MSM continues to focus on sex, the royal son has little or nothing to fear from vexatious suits brought by young ladies years after the event. As I tried to explain last week,

‘….Such allegations as exist regarding the royal son and an attractive young woman are technical: the age of consent in Miami is 17. Myself and hundreds of millions of others around the world would not regard that as abuse of a minor, and definitely not paedophilia. But I do suspect the Palace may have dropped a clanger by issuing such a studiedly specific denial…’

I think that latter point above would today get general approval. But from Day One, the Palace decided to see offence as the best form of defence.

Whenever I get systematically trolled about a controversial piece, my reaction is always the same: ‘clearly something to hide, then’. When I ran the opener in this latest round of the story last week, I was hounded on Twitter for much of the day by three drongos who insisted that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. After a long and pointless exchange with the first knuckle-dragger, I blocked him. Another two turned up in quick succession (it could’ve been the same bloke for all I know) and this time ‘they’ were blocked on sight.

But it left me wondering: another confidante of Epstein’s was Lord Mandelson. If these relationships were based on sex, it would be hard to imagine two punters much further apart on the sexual spectrum than Mandelson and the Prince. And if Peter the Elevated One is infamous for one thing, it is befriending the very rich so that – allegedly – he can borrow money off them. Even if Epstein did ‘traffic’ the 17 year old (now named as Virginia Roberts) for sexual purposes, as I wrote last week, given the purely ‘technical’ nature of the offence – cue lots of mad wimmin threaders – Buckingham Palace would normally have ignored the story.

Further enquiries in the US (and a thorough trawl of the past media pieces on the affair) now lead me to believe that this is a much bigger story than the old media realise.

It looks increasingly like a corrupt saga of quid pro quos between the Queen’s son, Sarah Ferguson, and Jeffrey Epstein. Allow me to explain.

From his initial liasons with Epstein’s lady friends in 2001, despite rumours of corrupt sexual dealings swirling around the financier’s head, Prince Andrew stood by him. It is of course also possible that Andrew kept on the right side of Jeffrey Epstein because the former bond dealer had incriminating photographic evidence of his sexual antics; but there is no evidence whatsoever of that. What we do know is that some seven years later, the financial incontinence of the Prince’s former wife led her to need lots of money to repay debts…and Jeffrey Epstein now faced federal charges on trafficking minors. From here on, things get very murky indeed.

It is a matter of written FBI evidence that, in the run-up to Epstein’s eventual conviction for pimping under-age women, several key witnesses were variously threatened and harassed, in two cases requesting ID change programmes. Yet despite this, Andrew still publicly supported his friend.

What’s being alleged now is that the Royal did rather more than just ‘stand by’: he weighed in to help Epstein get the best plea-bargain deal he could. Even if this was done out of a sense of loyalty, it was a foolish move on Andrew’s part…and something about which the Queen became furious when she learned of it. But it doesn’t end there.

What the three female complainants claim is that access to investigators’ documents from the 2008 trial will show that Epstein’s powerful friends, including Prince Andrew, lobbied the US government on his behalf.

Now comes the final element of which Royal advisers are really running scared. I understand there is a belief that “some form of evidence” in those files will strongly suggest that Andrew was motivated by a lot more than friendship. His help may well have been a quid pro quo deal to get his ex-wife out of the financial mire.

Worse still, it could suggest an attempt was made to pervert the course of justice.

Some circumstantial evidence supports this interpretation. First up and most obvious of all, Epstein got 18 months in prison for a crime that normally attracts a fifteen year sentence. Secondly, the second he came out of prison, the billionaire gave Sarah Ferguson $24,000 – the sum she allegedly needed to wipe out the last of her debts.

When the media heard of this, the former Duchess of York made another of her tears-on-the-carpet apologies. But the fact remains, I’m told, that Epstein dealt directly with the Duke’s office in order to send the money order to Sarah Ferguson via her ex-husband. It is alleged that, contrary to popular belief, the money was not returned.

In short, it is possible that the Prince was the blackmailer here, not the financier: that it may well have been a case of “I’ll get you leniency if you bail out Sarah”.

Whatever the truth of the case, the story is refusing to go away. More evidence is surfacing that, following his release from prison, Epstein and Andrew were often to be seen partying in New York. Two weeks ago, it was revealed that the disgraced financier – following bad publicity stirred by him reconnecting with Prince Andrew – had hired the crisis PR firm Sitrick to help tidy up his image. However, Jeffrey Epstein failed to pay their fees, and now stands accused of owing them $103,000.

The Mail ran with a story today suggesting that Epstein’s main plea bargain request in 2008 was to protect the Prince. But its sister paper the day before was asserting that it was Andrew who lobbied Washington to go easy on Epstein. Some of this is the usual Black Arts obfuscation of conflicting stories. If other professionals with more time and money than I want to get to the core of the scandal, my advice would remain the same: follow the money, and ask yourselves why the Palace is in quite such a panic.

Earlier at The Slog: 15 insoluble standoffs that await us in the year ahead