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Ministers hope Prince Andrew will speak to the FBI about his ties to Ghislaine Maxwell

Ministers hope Prince Andrew will speak to the FBI about his ties to Ghislaine Maxwell and pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Esptein without intervening.

Maxwell appeared in court in the United States on Thursday, accused of helping disgraced financier Epstein identify, befriend, and care for several girls, including one as young as 14.

US prosecutors have made a formal request to interview Andrew, a friend of Epstein’s, through the lodging of a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) with the Department of the Interior, as reported by The Sunday Telegraph.

An MLA is part of an agreement with the United States, which means they can ask the UK criminal authorities for assistance.

The request creates a kind of predicament for Secretary of the Interior Priti Patel, with the government keen that the US authorities and Andrew resolve the matter among themselves.

US prosecutors have made a formal request to interview Andrew, a friend of Epstein's, through the lodging of a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) with the Department of the Interior.  Pictured: Prince Andrew during his now infamous Newsnight interview

US prosecutors have made a formal request to interview Andrew, a friend of Epstein’s, through the lodging of a Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) with the Department of the Interior. Pictured: Prince Andrew during his now infamous Newsnight interview

The Duke cannot be forced to speak to the FBI, but the submission of the MLA means it could become a diplomatic headache for the government.

Andrew Campbell-Tiech QC, head of Drystone Chambers, told the newspaper: “I am sure the Interior Ministry would prefer the two sides to handle it themselves without any ministerial involvement.

The last thing they want is to get caught between the royal family on one side and the US authorities on the other. They don’t want to navigate through that. ‘

Andrew has previously claimed to have offered to witness the case twice.

A source close to the Duke said, “We have been in touch with the United States Department of Justice and said we are willing to provide assistance. The Duke has indicated that he is cooperating with the investigation and the ball is now with them.

“There is still a dialogue going on and we are sure the Home Office would not want to intervene.”

Andrew was friends with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted pedophile, who committed suicide last year

Andrew was friends with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted pedophile, who committed suicide last year

Andrew was friends with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted pedophile, who committed suicide last year

A spokesman for the prosecutors in New York’s Southern District declined to comment on the Sunday Telegraph on the matter of mutual legal assistance.

The Interior Ministry told the newspaper that it would not confirm or deny the existence of an MLA request.

It comes as a friend of Ghislaine Maxwell said she would “never” reveal information about the Duke of York in the pedophile case of Jeffrey Epstein, her friend claimed.

Former investment banker Laura Goldman said British socialite considered Andrew a friend and “would never say anything” about investigators against him.

It comes when Maxwell appeared in court in the US on Thursday, accused of helping disgraced financier Epstein identify, befriend and care for several girls, including one as young as 14.

Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts, (center) 17 years old in Ghislaine Maxwell's mansion (right) in London, on March 13, 2001

Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts, (center) 17 years old in Ghislaine Maxwell's mansion (right) in London, on March 13, 2001

Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts, (center) 17 years old in Ghislaine Maxwell’s mansion (right) in London, on March 13, 2001

The Duke, a former friend of Epstein’s, has since been urged by an American lawyer to provide information to the investigation.

Ms. Goldman, who claims to have known Maxwell since moving to the US, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Saturday that she should “close” a plea deal with prosecutors.

Asked if Maxwell would speak about the Duke as part of the investigation, Mrs. Goldman said, “She has always told me she would never, ever say anything about him.

“I think she felt he was her friend and would never say anything about him.

“She felt in the 90’s when her father died that Prince Andrew was there for her.”

Ms. Goldman said she last spoke to Maxwell “a few weeks ago” before she was arrested in New Hampshire on Thursday, adding, “She knew she was going to be at the end of the road.”

She claimed that Maxwell was a “victim” of Epstein and always “a little afraid” of him.

Ms. Goldman said, “I think she thought if she cared again, if he found another girl, he would marry her. Is that good? No.

“She honestly thought at the end of the day that she would be Mrs. Jeffrey Epstein and that was the price she wanted.”

Maxwell, daughter of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, has previously denied any misconduct or knowledge of sexual misconduct from her former boyfriend Epstein.

During a brief hearing on Thursday, a magistrate ordered her to remain in custody while she is being transferred to New York for a detention hearing.

Four of the six charges related to Maxwell’s contacts with Epstein from 1994 to 1997, when she was alleged to have an “intimate relationship” with him.

These include conspiracy to entice minors to engage in illegal sexual acts and to entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual acts.

She has also been accused of conspiring to transport minors for the purpose of participating in criminal sexual activities and for transporting a minor with the intention of participating in criminal sexual activities.

Epstein committed suicide in August before being tried for sex trafficking and conspiracy.

Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for New York’s Southern District, said at a news conference that authorities would “welcome” a statement from the Duke.

But a source close to the Duke said he was “baffled” by claims by US authorities that he had not offered to cooperate with the Epstein case.

One of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, who claims to have been trafficked by the financier, claims that the Duke had sex with her three times, even when she was 17, still a minor under U.S. law.

The Duke categorically denies that he had any kind of sexual contact or relationship with Mrs. Giuffre.

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