Prosecutors in New York said they would like Prince Andrew to speak to them following the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislane Maxwell on sex trafficking charges.
Ms Maxwell, a British socialite and former girlfriend of the disgraced late financier, was arrested by the FBI in a small town in New Hampshire on Thursday and indicted on charges including eliciting underage girls to travel for sex and of lying to investigators about it later.
Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said she "would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us. We would like to have the benefit of his statement," adding their doors remain open.
She claims Ms Maxwell, 58, played a "critical role" in his sexual abuse of minor girls. Ms Maxwell has previously denied any involvement or knowledge of Epstein's alleged sexual misconduct.
The arrest could have significant implications for the Duke of York, who is reported to have been introduced to Epstein in 1999 by his friend Ms Maxwell.
The Duke and Ghislaine
She is central to allegations made by Virginia Andrews Giuffre, who has claimed she was forced to sleep with Prince Andrew when she was 17.
Ms Giuffre has claimed she was introduced to the Duke in Ms Maxwell's London home in March 2001, with a now-famous photograph of the Duke with his arm around the younger woman said to have been taken upstairs.
The Duke is last known to have met Ms Maxwell at Buckingham Palace in the summer of 2019, two weeks after US prosecutors announced they wanted to reopen their investigation into Epstein.
The Duke said in his Newsnight interview that it was the last time he was in touch with Ms Maxwell, with whom he has been friends for decades, inviting her to a "straightforward shooting weekend" at Sandringham and to Princess Beatrice's 18th birthday party at Windsor Castle.
In June, the Duke's lawyers said he had offered to speak to investigators “on at least three occasions this year”, accusing them of "seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered".
In November, sources familiar with the case told the Telegraph Ms Maxwell would never implicate the Duke if she was to be interviewed by the FBI over the Epstein scandal.
Ms Maxwell will instead corroborate the Duke of York’s adamant denial of ever having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old ‘sex slave’ trafficked by his friend Jeffrey Epstein, it was claimed.
Prosecutors allege that Ms Maxwell recruited, groomed, and abused victims known to be minors as young as 14 and played a part in trafficking them across America, London and Paris.
William Sweeney, assistant director of the FBI in New York City, described Ms Maxwell as “one of the villains in this case”.
Her whereabouts had not been known since the arrest of Epstein last summer. Some reports suggested she has been hiding in Israel, or France, or even being protected by the FBI.
“We have been keeping tabs on Miss Maxwell’s whereabouts, and recently she slithered away to a beautiful property in New Hampshire,” Mr Sweeney said.
According to an unsealed indictment at the Southern District Court of New York, she is facing six charges, including enticement and conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transportation and conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and two counts of perjury.
Federal prosecutors said in court papers she had "enticed and caused minor victims to travel to Epstein's residence in different states" and that Maxwell would assist in their "grooming for and subjection to sexual abuse."
Prosecutors charged that Ms Maxwell was well aware of Epstein's preference for minor girls, and that he intended to sexually abuse them.
The charges date back to 1994 and involve three unnamed victims, the youngest of whom was 14 when she allegedly met the British socialite, who is the daughter of late British media magnate Robert Maxwell.
One of the girls, referred to as "Victim 3" in the indictment to protect her identity, was allegedly underage when she was groomed and abused in London between the years 1994-1995. The indictment alleges that Ms Maxwell "encouraged Victim 3 to give massages to Epstein."
Ms Maxwell was accused by many women of recruiting them to give the late financier massages, during which they were pressured into sex. Those accusations, until now, never resulted in criminal charges.
'Waited for this day'
Jennifer Araoz, a woman who says Epstein raped her in his New York mansion in 2002 when she was 15, said she feared the financier's ring of conspirators for years.
"Now that the ring has been taken down, I know that I can't be hurt anymore," she said in a statement. "Day after day, I have waited for the news that Maxwell would be arrested and held accountable for her actions. Her arrest is a step in that direction, and it truly means that the justice system didn't forget about us."
Lisa Bloom, who represents one of Ms Maxwell's accusers, told the Telegraph on Thursday she was relieved to hear of her "long overdue arrest" for her "ruthless" actions.
"Ghislaine Maxwell's brutal, ruthless and manipulative behaviour caused my client tremendous pain," Ms Bloom said.
"We applaud her long overdue arrest today. All others accused of enabling Jeffrey Epstein's predations should be brought to justice as well."
Epstein is reported to have killed himself in his prison cell in New York last August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.