Prince Andrew’s legal team could try to get sex abuse allegations against him by a victim of Jeffrey Epstein thrown out of court by saying he had diplomatic immunity because he was a trade envoy at the time, it has been claimed.
Top US lawyer Spencer Kuvin suggested that Andrew’s legal team may claim the Duke of York – who was a trade envoy in 2001, when Virginia Giuffre alleges that he raped and sexually abused her – had immunity in America.
Mr Kuvin, who represents several of convicted paedophile financier Epstein’s victims, made the claim as friends of Andrew said the royal was ‘cheerful and relaxed’ over the bombshell case in the US and would remain silent.
The Duke held the role of ‘special representative for international trade and investment’ for the UK for a decade from 2001 until 2011, after taking it up when he left active military service in the Royal Navy.
This means Andrew could be protected under the 1978 Diplomatic Relations Act in the US because he was working for the UK Government in America at the time – and not because he is a member of the Royal Family.
The case alleges that he sexually abused Ms Giuffre – then known as Virginia Roberts – at Epstein’s properties in New York and the US Virgin Islands, and at the home of Epstein’s girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell in London.
Meanwhile Andrew is said to have ‘no intention’ of changing course and is not panicking about Ms Giuffre’s lawsuit launched in New York last week, according to a friend in London. The Duke is currently at Balmoral visiting his mother the Queen with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson,
Mr Kuvin told the Mirror: ‘Ms Giuffre’s lawyers have huge barriers to overcome to get her lawsuit anywhere near a jury. If the Duke engages in the case at all, his legal team will undoubtedly file a motion to dismiss the complaint on numerous different grounds. For sure, they would argue diplomatic immunity. They would have a strong case.’
A friend told the Sun: ‘His legal team always expected this and have prepared. They advised the Duke to keep calm and carry on and he is taking their advice. The legal process could go on for years but that’s not his fault. He will respond if required to by law, as he has always said.’
Prince Andrew’s lawyers may try to get his rape accuser’s claim thrown out of court by claiming he had diplomatic immunity as friends say the royal is ‘cheerful and relaxed’ over the sexual abuse allegations and will remain silent
Prince Andrew with Virginia Roberts taken in 2001. Virginia claims that the Prince had sex with her, knowing she had been ‘trafficked’. Prince Andrew denies any wrongdoing and claims not to remember even meeting her
Ms Giuffre claims she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein and forced to have sex with The Duke of York when she was a teenager, which the duke categorically denies
Andrew’s lawyers are reportedly frantically trying to avoid the case going to trial in the US over fears that jurors may side with an alleged victim of sexual abuse over him in the MeToo era.
While the 61-year-old has firmly denied the claims, those inside the palace believe there could be ‘credibility’ problems with his version of events, according to the Times.
What is diplomatic immunity and why could it be argued that Prince Andrew has it in the US?
Prince Andrew’s lawyers could claim that he was a trade envoy in 2001 when Virginia Giuffre alleges that he raped and sexually abused her in New York – and therefore had diplomatic immunity.
The Duke of York held the role of ‘special representative for international trade and investment’ for the UK from 2001 until 2011, after taking it up when he left active military service. The position involved promoting Britain as a destination for investment from overseas, and creating positive conditions for UK businesses exporting and investing overseas.
Diplomatic immunity basically means that some foreign government officials do not face the jurisdiction of local courts and other authorities for their official or personal activities.
While the principle can be traced back to Ancient Greek and Roman governments, US law on the diplomatic immunity is linked to 1708 when the UK Parliament formally recognised it. Similar legislation was then passed in the US itself in 1790 which gave absolute immunity for diplomats and their families and servants.
This law remained in force until 1978, when the present Diplomatic Relations Act (22 U.S.C. 254) was enacted to replace it and give a more precise regime to reduce how much immunity was given to many people at diplomatic missions. Guidance published by the US State Department states: ‘While police officers are obliged, under international customary and treaty law, to recognise the immunity of the envoy, they must not ignore or condone the commission of crimes’.
The Queen has ‘sovereign immunity’ which grants her protection from prosecution when travelling outside Britain, but this does not apply to other members of the Royal Family. Instead, when a royal is working abroad – which would be with the British Government – they act as diplomats during their time abroad and therefore receive diplomatic immunity.
Therefore, Andrew could potentially receive diplomatic immunity because he was working for the UK Government in America at the time – and not because he is a member of the Royal Family.
In the legal claim, lawyers said Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell and the prince had all forced Miss Roberts to have sex with Andrew against her will after she was trafficked to London in 2001.
They alleged two other such incidents also took place at Epstein’s mansion in New York and at his private island in the US Virgin Islands, Little Saint James.
The legal document, filed to a court in New York, said Miss Roberts, now 38 and a married mother-of-three known by her married name Virginia Giuffre, had suffered ‘severe and lasting’ damage.
In a car-crash Newsnight interview in 2019, the prince denied any untoward activity and claimed he was in a Pizza Express in Woking – not in the capital – at the time.
It follows claims from American that Ms Giuffre’s legal team had been astonished by the naivety of Andrew’s tactics and warned his evasive approach was certain to backfire.
There is mounting concern at the Palace too, where the Queen’s courtiers are piling pressure on the Prince to change tack and speak out publicly. The Queen has met with Andrew in the past few days at Balmoral and aides close to the Monarch now fear the silence will damage the Royal Family itself.
Last week, the Mail on Sunday revealed that Andrew was facing renewed sex claims in a New York court.
The civil lawsuit alleges that Andrew had sex with Ms Giuffre at the Manhattan home of the late financier Jeffrey Epstein and at other locations in 2001, knowing that she had been trafficked by Epstein when she was a 17-year-old minor.
Ms Giuffre, whose maiden name was Roberts, also claims that Andrew ‘stonewalled’ communications from her lawyer and rejected a request to explore alternative dispute resolution.
If Andrew was hoping the allegations would fade – and that he could resume a place in public life – the fresh legal case has placed him back at the centre of controversy.
Now the Palace fears it will be dragged in too, unless the Queen’s second son makes some attempt to diffuse the mounting tension.
The Prince has not spoken publicly in the past week, but in an interview with BBC Two’s Newsnight in 2019, he said he could not remember meeting Ms Giuffre and categorically denied that they had sex.
One well-placed palace insider said: ‘There’s a growing sense that his legal team need to say something, even if it is just to acknowledge that they are working on it. The Duke’s legal team is not doing him or the rest of the family any favours by being so taciturn.’
US lawyers tried to hold up Prince Andrew on his horse in order to personally serve him court papers for the Virginia Giuffre sexual assault case, it is claimed
One source said: ‘The Queen met with Andrew and no doubt asked him, ‘What are your lawyers saying? What’s the advice?”
Steve Scully (pictured) claims to have witnessed the Duke of York kissing and grinding against a blonde woman wearing a bikini – whom he insists was Andrew’s sex accuser – by a swimming pool between 2001 and 2004
The source said there was ‘bafflement’ about the strategy of Andrew’s legal team, which includes Gary Bloxsome of the firm Blackfords and advice from Blair Berk, a female lawyer who previously represented Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
So far they have refused even to reiterate Andrew’s previous claim that he has no recollection of meeting Ms Giuffre.
One insider said the paranoia within Andrew’s team was such that the lawyers had ‘hunkered down’ and were even ‘blanking’ requests for information from other aides.
The source close to Ms Giuffre’s advisers – headed by heavyweight US litigator David Boies – said of Andrew’s legal team: ‘If I was to give you one word which sums up the attitude from Prince Andrew and his side, it is ‘arrogance’. No one out-bluffs David Boies.
‘We gave them multiple times to respond, to come to the table to discuss this, and they ignored our letters, ignored our calls. They were given multiple opportunities to get together, to start a discussion and avoid any of this becoming public. There was nothing but a wall of silence.’
A preliminary hearing has been set for September 13 in Manhattan.
Prince Andrew’s lawyers ‘will say he has diplomatic immunity over sex abuse lawsuit’