Prince Andrew is at risk of being dragged into the criminal case against Ghislaine Maxwell after a New York court charged the socialite with two new sex trafficking charges.
The charges cover a period of time in the early 2000s when Prince Andrew was spending time with Ms Maxwell and her then boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein, who was subsequently convicted of paedophile charges.
Sources close to him pointed out that the case had “nothing to do with the Duke”. Another source close to Ms Maxwell questioned why fresh charges were being brought against her, nine months after she was arrested and at least 18 months since the FBI opened a criminal investigation into her.
The charges relate to a teenage girl who has accused Ms Maxwell, the daughter of the deceased media tycoon Robert Maxwell, of recruiting and grooming her for Epstein from the age of 14 and from 2001 until 2004.
The timing is potentially significant for Prince Andrew because he first met Epstein around 1999. Another of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has claimed Prince Andrew had sex with her on three occasions in 2001 and 2002.
Prince Andrew denies all wrongdoing and rejects all of Ms Giuffre’s claims.
Sources close to Ms Maxwell, 59, questioned why the new charges have been brought just four months before a trial that is due to begin in July.
One said: “These charges could be to bring in Prince Andrew.”
The source added: “It is awful. It is wrong.”
Ms Maxwell’s brother, Ian, said on Twitter: “The government has admitted how weak its indictment is. So it has added another anonymous accuser from 20 yrs ago. That does not strengthen the government’s case.”
The prospect of Prince Andrew being called as a witness or forced to give testimony would supercharge a trial that is already destined to become a huge media circus.
American prosecutors said last year they had wanted to talk to him as a witness and claimed he had not co-operated with their inquires.
The claim is strongly denied by Prince Andrew, who issued a statement through his lawyers last June – prior to Ms Maxwell’s arrest – claiming he had offered his assistance to the department of justice on three occasions.
US prosecutors have now widened the case against Ms Maxwell, who is in prison in New York awaiting trial over accusations she aided in the abuse of three other women and girls. Ms Maxwell has denied the charges.
The previous charges centred on claims of abuse dating back to 1994 to 1997, prior to Prince Andrew being introduced to Epstein.
The amended indictment added a fourth victim, alleging that between 2001 and 2004 Ms Maxwell and Epstein recruited an unnamed 14-year-old girl to engage in sex acts with Epstein at his home in Palm Beach, Florida.
Ms Maxwell “enticed and groomed” the girl to engage in sex acts with Epstein “through a variety of means and methods”, the new charges read.
’s family have called her treatment “cruel”. She remains in a small cell in a Brooklyn detention centre on suicide watch. Epstein hanged himself in a New York jail while awaiting sex abuse charges in August 2019.