A lobbyist with ties to the Trump administration and a client list that includes governments accused of human rights abuses has declined to represent Prince Andrew, it was claimed on Sunday night.
The New York Times said the Duke of York's lawyers approached the Washington-based lobbyist Robert Stryk "in recent weeks". Mr Stryk has a history of "taking on clients with unsavoury reputations" the newspaper reported but it claimed that he "expressed discomfort about the possibility of assisting Prince Andrew".
The Telegraph understands a "conversation" took place between Mr Stryk and Blackfords, the London law firm representing the Duke, but no deal was struck.
A spokesman for Prince Andrew declined to comment. A source said: "This looks like a lobbying firm advertising. No engagement has been made or sought."
Mr Stryk was unavailable for comment on Sunday. According to The New York Times, he owns a company called Sonoran Policy Group which runs a "global private diplomacy" firm.
Mr Stryk has represented a Saudi prince who fell out of favour with the country's rulers as well as the Venezuelan government which president Donald Trump considers "illegitimate".
His clients also include Isabel dos Santos, Africa's richest woman and the daughter of Angola's former president, who is accused of embezzlement, a charge she denies.
Previous clients include the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo when it was run by Joseph Kabila, who has been accused of human rights abuses.
The report came as the Duke of York's lawyers offered to co-operate with US prosecutors just days before Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested, leaving the Prince "very frustrated" by the public appeal for him to "talk with us".
Sources close to the Prince said on Sunday night that his legal team had written to the Department of Justice in the US two to three days before FBI agents swooped, arresting Ms Maxwell, 58, at her hideout in New Hampshire.
Prosecutors on Sunday asked a judge to schedule a Friday court appearance for Ms Maxwell to face charges she helped Jeffrey Epstein recruit women to sexually abuse.
In a letter to a judge on Sunday, prosecutors said they have communicated with Ms Maxwell's defence lawyer, who would like a Friday bail hearing after written arguments are submitted by both sides.
Prosecutors said they expect the US Marshals Service to transport Ms Maxwell from a county jail in New Hampshire to New York at the beginning of this week.
According to one of Epstein's alleged victims, who was able to listen in to Ms Maxwell's first court appearance on Thursday, the 58-year-old daughter of the disgraced tycoon Robert Maxwell could be heard sobbing over the video link and exclaiming: "Why is this happening, how could this happen?"
Sources insisted the Prince's lawyers had now written five times offering to assist with the inquiry into Ms Maxwell over her alleged role in grooming under age girls who were sexually abused by Epstein, her former boyfriend who died in prison last year while awaiting trial.
The last letter was sent after Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, the unit leading the Maxwell inquiry, was sacked by the Donald Trump administration for reasons that remain unclear. Lawyers had hoped that the removal of Mr Berman, who had claimed that the Duke was refusing to co-operate, would allow them to open a new channel of communication. The Duke's team has accused US investigators of breaching their own confidentiality rules and misleading the public.
The source, close to the Duke, said: "The latest letter was sent within the last seven days. It was sent after Berman was fired and just before the [Maxwell] arrest. We haven't had a response." The source added: "We have communicated our willingness to co-operate with the Department of Justice five times, but we don't believe we are being treated fairly in the process. The Duke is the one celebrity consistently cited by Berman, but there are others who are prominent in the States, and yet the first person they want to talk to is a UK citizen. There are lots of people they could go after that are more interesting."
On Saturday, The Telegraph obtained a photograph of her sitting on the throne in the Buckingham Palace Throne Room after being taken on a private tour – along with Bill Clinton and Kevin Spacey – of the palace by the Duke in 2002. The prince has said he has "no recollection" of the incident but this newspaper has ascertained that he was definitely there.
It was reported on Sunday that more than 20 armed FBI agents and police took part in the operation to arrest Ms Maxwell at her 156-acre property in New Hampshire, called Tucked Away, that she bought last year.
An unnamed police officer told The Mail on Sunday: "We didn't knock politely on the door. It was smashed down. Maxwell was up and dressed, in the living room, wearing sweat pants and a top. Strangely she didn't show much reaction. It was like it wasn't registering. She was turned around quickly and cuffed. She was in custody in a matter of seconds."
The war of words between US prosecutors and the Duke has intensified after Audrey Strauss, who has temporarily taken over from Berman, told a press briefing she would "welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us, we would like to have the benefit of his statement".
The Home Office is considering a request by the US prosecutors to agree to help with its inquiries by facilitating an interview with Prince Andrew under oath that would likely take place at his lawyer's offices in London. However, the Prince's team said he is willing to help voluntarily and that such a request under the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty is unnecessary.
It is understood the Duke is willing to provide a statement on his relationships with Epstein and Ms Maxwell, but he has already told the BBC's Newsnight that he was unaware of any criminal activity when staying in Epstein's homes, and also had no recollection of ever meeting Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a US woman who alleges that she was forced to have sex with him when she was 17, a claim he vehemently denies.
On Sunday, Ms Roberts Giuffre, who listened into Ms Maxwell's first court appearance, said: "Prince Andrew should be panicking at the moment because Ghislaine doesn't really care about anyone else but Ghislaine."
Epstein committed suicide in August 2019 at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, leaving Ms Maxwell as the main focus for the inquiry.