Ghislaine Maxwell prepared to give evidence on behalf of Prince Andrew

Ghislaine Maxwell is prepared to give evidence on behalf of Duke of York after he was sued for the sexual assault of a teenage girl 20 years ago.

Friends of Maxwell said the socialite would support Prince Andrew’s insistence that he had never had sex with Virginia Giuffre.

Giuffre has filed a lawsuit against the Duke, alleging that she was a victim of sex trafficking who had been abused by him on three separate occasions when she was only 17. The legal action raises the astonishing prospect of Prince Andrew being forced to give evidence on the stand in a New York courtroom.

Giuffre, now aged 38, claims she was abused by the Duke after first being groomed by Maxwell for the sexual gratification of Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted paedophile who committed suicide while awaiting further charges in 2019.

Her lawyer David Boise last night claimed that the Prince’s lawyers “have totally stonewalled”, adding: “He can ignore me. And he can ignore Virginia… but he can’t ignore judicial process.”

In the legal claim, Prince Andrew is alleged to have “intentionally committed battery by sexually assaulting Plaintiff [Giuffre] when she was a minor”, adding that “on multiple occasions prince Andrew intentionally touchedPlaintiff in an offensive and sexual manner without her consent”.

Friends of Maxwell have let it be known that the socialite, currently languishing in jail awaiting trial in November on sex trafficking charges, will testify on behalf of the Prince should the case ever reach court. Maxwell would herself need to be cleared of wrongdoing at her own trial if her evidence is to be considered credible in a New York courtroom.

Maxwell is a key witness to a number of alleged incidents, including a claim by Giuffre that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew at Maxwell’s London home in 2001. The Prince denies all wrongdoing and Maxwell has to date always supported him.

“Ghislaine will be prepared to give evidence on the Duke’s behalf,” said a friend. “By the time the case against the Duke gets to court, Ghislaine will either be convicted and serving up to 85 years in jail [or if] cleared of course she would help Prince Andrew. They have been friends for a very long time. It is highly likely Ghislaine will offer to assist him.”

Return to public life

The civil case lodged by Giuffre shatters the Duke’s final lingering hope of a return to public life after being forced to step down from all Royal duties after giving a disastrous interview to the BBC’s Newsnight in November 2019 in which he failed to condemn Epstein.

On launching her legal action, Giuffre alleged she was trafficked to the Duke and sexually abused on three separate occasions, when she was 17 in London, New York and the US Virgin Islands.

“I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me,” she said. “The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions.”

The Duke had long planned to rebuild his reputation and had hoped to reframe his role in a way that would allow him to return to public service this year.

Epstein link

However, Buckingham Palace aides have repeatedly stressed that while family members privately support him, a return to any form of public role could only be considered if it was no longer overshadowed by his link to Epstein.

Such a development appeared increasingly unlikely, with the Duke facing the prospect of having to challenge the suit or settle, which could be seen as an admission of guilt, even if he did not accept any liability.

Should the Duke ignore the legal case, the suit would likely proceed in New York without his participation. Any trial in absentia would increase Giuffre’s chances of winning, raising the horrifying prospect of the Queen’s second oldest son being branded a sex offender by a New York court and paying substantial damages.

Nigel Cawthorne, the Prince’s biographer, said: “Giuffre’s lawsuit will preclude a return to public duties. It is very difficult to see how Prince Andrew can return to the frontline of the monarchy while a suit is pending, or with a verdict against him passed in absentia.”

Responding to allegations

The Duke’s legal team, headed by Clare Montgomery QC, the UK’s leading expert on extradition law, and Gary Bloxsome, a criminal defence solicitor, were on Tuesday locked in discussions about how to respond to the allegations.

The Prince’s team of advisers are thought likely to challenge the suit and to accuse Giuffre of fabricating claims or else changing her story to paint her as an unreliable witness. One source pointed to previous claims that she was abused by the Duke on Epstein’s New Mexico ranch in 2001, which is not mentioned in the 15-page legal document.

They are also thought to be frustrated that Giuffre has only sued Prince Andrew, despite alleging that she was abused by “several powerful men.”

'Small chance' of court appearance

Arick Fudali, a lawyer with The Bloom Firm, which has represented nine of Epstein’s victims, said the case “certainly put pressure” on Prince Andrew, but that there was only a “small chance” it would end up in court.

Fudali said there was a possibility that the Duke would have to be served the court documents in person but noted that it was “very difficult for public figures to hide.”

Fudali acknowledged that with little evidence, the case might amount to her word against his, but that juries were “not giving Jeffrey Epstein the benefit of the doubt”.

He said: “Looking at the circumstances of this case and the imbalance of power, I would be confident if I was the plaintiff going in front of a jury.”

The lawsuit notes that in his November 2019 Newsnight interview, the Duke claimed he had no recollection of meeting Giuffre and also stated that he did not regret his friendship with Epstein.

It also highlights that subsequently, the Duke pledged to assist law enforcement with their investigations should it be required. But the document states that he has refused to cooperate with the US authorities as well as lawyers for Epstein’s victims.

Attempts to rehabilitate the Duke’s image began when he hired a formidable legal team, which has been working around the clock to clear his name.

Last year, he was photographed packing cupcakes at his home, Royal Lodge, in Windsor, and delivering care parcels to the Thames Hospice and in April, he was interviewed on television about his late father, the Duke of Edinburgh.

But any ambitions to return to public life were shattered when Giuffre lodged her lawsuit at the Southern District of New York on Sunday, just days before the expiration of the Child Victims Act, a state law that helps victims of historical sexual abuse to seek redress.

SEXUAL HARM – DO YOU NEED HELP?

If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact the Safe to Talk confidential crisis helpline on:
• Text 4334 and they will respond
• Email [email protected]
• Visit https://safetotalk.nz/contact-us/ for an online chat

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