Prince Andrew has defended his former friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, saying “at no stage” did he “see or suspect” any criminal behaviour.
Epstein, 66, took his own life in a jail cell this month while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
In a statement, the Duke of York said he wanted to “clarify the facts” around his “former association or friendship” with the US financier.
He said it was a “mistake” to meet Epstein after he left prison in 2010.
“During the time I knew him, I saw him infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year,” the prince said.
“I have stayed in a number of his residences. At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction,” he added.
The duke said he had “tremendous sympathy” for all those affected by Epstein’s behaviour.
“His suicide has left many unanswered questions and I acknowledge and sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.”
Allegations against Epstein surfaced in 2005 when the parents of a 14-year-old girl told police in Florida he had molested their daughter at his Palm Beach home.
The financier was accused of paying underage girls to perform sex acts at his Manhattan and Florida mansions between 2002 and 2005.
A controversial secret plea deal saw him plead guilty to a lesser charge of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He received an 18-month prison sentence and was released on probation in 2010.
Prince Andrew was photographed with Epstein in New York’s Central Park in late 2010 – after the tycoon was released from jail.
In July 2019 Epstein was charged in New York with further allegations of sex trafficking and conspiracy and was due to face trial next year. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges but if convicted, was facing up to 45 years in prison.