American investigators probing Prince Andrew’s paedophile pal Jeffrey Epstein have formally requested the Duke of York be handed over to give evidence.
The U.S. Department of Justice made a formal ”Mutual Legal Assistance” (MLA) request to the Home Office bypassing Buckingham Palace.
The MLA allows cooperation between the U.S. and the U.K. when evidence needs to be gathered in a prosecution or investigation of criminal offences.
If approved by the Home Office, the FBI could ask Andrew, 60, to be compelled to go to a British court to give evidence under oath as a witness if he refused to cooperate.
It would be up to the judge in the U.K. to decide if the hearing was in open court.
If U.S. prosecutors wanted to extradite Andrew, they would have to obtain an arrest warrant or a grand jury indictment to make a request to the UK.
However, such a move has been complicated after America’s State Department refused an extradition request for ex CIA spy Anne Sacoolas, who fled Britain using diplomatic immunity after being accused of killing teen motorbiker Harry Dunn.
So far Andrew has allegedly refused to be quizzed by New York prosecutors and lawyers representing Epstein’s victims although he vehemently denies any wrongdoing.
He has been accused by the late paedophile’s former teen ”sex slave” Virginia Giuffre of having slept with her three times when show 17, a claim he refutes.
Although Andrew spent time with Epstein, who committed suicide last August while awaiting trial for underage sex trafficking, he has also denied witnessing any suspicious behaviour by Epstein.
Tonight it was claimed no decision had been made yet over the American’s request which was filed last month.
If the application is successful, the Duke would either be asked to voluntarily attend an interview and give a signed statement although not be under oath or appear at magistrates in London to provide oral or written evidence on oath.
If the Duke refuses, he could be forced to attend in person by summons, where U.S. lawyers would then able to question to him.
Unlike the Queen, father-of-two Andrew does not hold sovereign immunity from prosecution.
The Home Office told the Mirror: “As a matter of long-standing policy and practice, we neither confirm nor deny the existence of mutual legal assistance requests.”
In January, the head of the ongoing criminal probe into Epstein and his enablers, U.S. prosecutor Geoffrey Berman, claimed Andrew has refused to help an FBI investigation.
In an excoriating attack, he said: “It’s fair for people to know whether Prince Andrew has followed through with that public commitment.
“To date, Prince Andrew has provided zero cooperation.”
A few days later the Duke was reported to be “angry and bewildered” at the claims by the U.S. authorities.
The Prince heaped shame on the royal family due to his ties with Epstein.
After a decade long friendship, the two men were pictured walking in Central Park, New York, in 2010 just months after the paedophile was released from prison for procuring a minor for prostitution.
It later emerged the Duke had flown on the convicted sex offender’s private jet while also enjoying the Wall Street financier’s lavish hospitality at the American’s homes around the world.
Following Epstein’s death, U.S. Attorney General William Barr warned his alleged co-conspirators they “should not rest easy”.
He promised the billionaire’s helpers would be the focus of the criminal investigation and brought to justice despite Epstein’s suicide.
He vowed: “Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy.
“The victims deserve justice, and they will get it.”
As a result of the controversy, Andrew stepped down from royal duties last year.
Tonight, lawyer’s for Prince Andrew’s declined to comment.
But a source close to the Duke’s legal team told the Mirror: “Legal discussions with the DOJ are subject to strict confidentiality rules, as set out in their own guidelines.
“We have chosen to abide by both the letter and the spirit of these rules, which is why we have made no comment about anything related to the DOJ during the course of this year. We believe in playing a straight bat.”