Disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself in a New York federal detention center earlier this month. But his ghost is still haunting a lot of people, including Britain’s Prince Andrew, who today issued a statement about his longtime association with the controversial figure.
The prince had been hanging around with Epstein since 1999. In 2005, allegations that Epstein was paying underage girls for sex began to surface, and the following year he was charged by Palm Beach County, Florida prosecutors. In 2008, the financier ended up reaching a much-criticized deal with federal prosecutors that resulted in Epstein spending about 18 months in the county’s cushier jail, the Stockade, with work-release privileges. Nonetheless, the British royal continued to meet with Epstein after his conviction, explaining in his statement that he did not suspect Epstein was involved in illegal activity.
Yet, in 2011, the prince resigned from his position as an international trade envoy for the UK, after a decade of service, when his continued association with Epstein prompted criticism. Photographs of the royal and the financier, taken in 2010, led to Andrew’s resignation, and that’s what he was likely alluding to when the prince stated, “I have said previously that it was a mistake and an error to see him after his release in 2010 and I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we now know.”
What we now know is that Epstein was charged with additional crimes this year. He is alleged to have paid underage girls for sex for more than a decade, including after his release from custody in Florida. Certainly, the British royal was aware of the crimes the financier was initially incarcerated for, even if, as he says, he cannot “understand or explain Mr. Epstein’s lifestyle.”
In 2015, the British royal was named in a civil lawsuit related to Epstein. Virginia Giuffre, who says she was Epstein’s sex slave, also claims to have slept with the prince at Epstein’s home, and there is a photo of the royal with the girl from when she was just 15 years old.
This latest expression of regret also comes as the prince is under pressure. Recently released footage from 2010 seems to show the royal at Epstein’s Manhattan mansion, where the prince appears from behind the opening door and waves at a young woman leaving the residence. The footage also showed Epstein emerging from the same residence with a different young woman. “I think that this is a consequence of the build-up of press exposure in the days since [the video’s release] and, as [Prince Andrew] would see it, a need to get his story, his rebuttal, out in as forceful terms as he can,” BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell suggests.
Whatever the reasoning behind prince Andrew’s latest apologetic statement, it’s clear by now that he will remain haunted by this ghost of friendship past for a long time to come.