In a surprise move, the United States Attorneys Office in New York has invoked the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, or MLAT, to demand an interview with Prince Andrew, Duke of York, in relation to the investigation of Jeffrey Epstein’s history of sexual abuse. While Prince Andrew pledged to cooperate in every way, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman insisted that he has not assisted in any way with the investigation. The use of the MLAT to subpoena the testimony of a Royal family member is nothing short of breathtaking as a development. The assumption was that any real criminal inquiry died with Epstein. That is clearly not the case.
Berman stated “Contrary to Prince Andrew’s very public offer to cooperate with our investigation into Epstein’s co-conspirators, an offer that was conveyed via press release, Prince Andrew has now completely shut the door on voluntary cooperation.”
In his ill-considered and much criticized interview with the BBC in the fall, Andrew categorically denied allegations that he had sex with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims that she was trafficked by Epstein when she was 17. She alleges that she was ordered have sexual relations with the prince.
The request could facilitate an actual appearance in a court for testimony as well as production of documents and pictures.
Article 1 of the MLAT between the two countries states:
1. The Parties shall provide mutual assistance, in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty, for the purpose of proceedings as defined in Article 19 of this Treaty. 2. Assistance shall include: (a) taking the testimony or statements of persons; (b) providing documents, records, and evidence; (c) serving documents; (d) locating or identifying persons; (e) transferring persons in custody for testimony (or other purposes); (f) executing requests for searches and seizures; (g) identifying, tracing, freezing, seizing, and forfeiting the proceeds and instrumentalities of crime and assistance in related proceedings; and (h) such other assistance as may be agreed between Central Authorities.
The stakes could now be considerably higher for Prince Andrew if he is to appear under oath. His earlier rambling and conflicted interview was comical to many but it could now be criminal to Prince Andrew if he gives false or misleading answers.
What is clear is that such an appearance will be a bonanza for the media which has been clamoring for this moment, even in the midst of protests and riots around the world. The media is likely to echo the sentiment of Gloucester in Richard III that “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York.”