In a highly unusual move, the United States attorney in Manhattan publicly scolded Britain’s Prince Andrew for failing to cooperate with authorities investigating Jeffrey Epstein and his associates for sex trafficking.
“To date, Prince Andrew has provided zero cooperation,” prosecutor Geoffrey Berman said Monday, when asked if the prince had been cooperative, according to the New York Times. Berman acknowledged that his office rarely comments on ongoing investigations, but said it was “fair” to do so in this case since Prince Andrew pledged to cooperate with investigators in November. That pledge came in the wake of Andrew’s much-criticized interview with the BBC, in which the prince, who is the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II, failed to acknowledge Epstein’s victims. Prosecutors and the FBI have reached out to Andrew's legal team three times and not gotten a response, the Times reported.
Lisa Bloom, a lawyer representing five of Epstein’s victims, caused a stir Tuesday by suggesting the Trump administration reconsider its refusal to extradite Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an American diplomat whose alleged dangerous driving in an unrelated case killed a British teenager. “I understand diplomatic immunity, but this is not a good look,” Bloom tweeted. “If we want cooperation, we must cooperate in their investigations too.”
Former senior federal prosecutors say that Berman’s decision to chastise Andrew for his failure to cooperate is a strong indication that authorities do not have enough evidence to charge the prince. Unless Andrew is charged, he cannot be extradited to the U.S.
“They could request a procedure at which he is questioned by the British authorities,” Scott Fredericksen, a former federal prosecutor and independent counsel who is now a managing partner at Foley & Lardner, told Yahoo News. “I think that’s unlikely to happen. If that were going to happen, I don’t think they would have gone public.”
Fredericksen said that Andrew’s status as a prominent member of the British royal family has likely constrained prosecutors. “They’re kind of stuck here because he is a royal and there are limited options for the government to do anything,” Fredericksen said. “What they’d like to do is at least question him, but whether they can persuade the U.K. authorities to ask him to be questioned. ... It would be highly unusual and would have to be approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government.”
Fredericksen said that while it is possible for U.S. authorities to issue a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) request to British authorities in a bid to question Andrew, it is unlikely prosecutors see that as an effective strategy, particularly given the State Department’s refusal to “extradite a woman married to someone in a fairly low-level [diplomatic] position in an auto accident.” Sacoolas killed British teenager Harry Dunn while driving on the wrong side of the road in England. U.S. officials’ refusal to send Sacoolas back to England to answer for her alleged dangerous driving has caused a furor in Britain.
"It’s certainly not a banner time for the U.S. to be asking the U.K. for favors, but the MLAT process is mechanical and important to both countries," said Roger Burlingame, a former federal prosecutor who now represents European clients in the London office of Dechert. “That said, there’s play in the joints, and if the U.K. were unenthusiastic because of the Dunn case or other sensitivities, it’s not something the U.S. can enforce.”
Andrew also would likely have diplomatic immunity, Fredericksen said. “The U.K. is not going to extradite a royal,” he said. Prosecutors have little leverage against Andrew other than a “public statement trying to embarrass the royal family,” he added.
A former high-ranking federal prosecutor who requested anonymity because he is no longer working for the Department of Justice told Yahoo News that most people don’t realize the “relationship between the British and the Americans isn’t as wonderful as people think it is on extradition.” He added that unless Andrew makes the mistake of visiting the U.S., it will be hard for authorities to secure his cooperation in the Epstein investigation.
“The only way you force the process on Andrew is if he makes a stupid decision to make a trip to the U.S. and then he can be forced to appear before a grand jury,” the former prosecutor said. “Disney is one of the most effective tools the government has to pressure people to testify. ... Kids pressure their criminal parents to go to Disney and when they get here they are surprised that Customs knows who they are.”
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