US demands Britain hands over Prince Andrew to be quizzed over Epstein link, as he says he offered help three times

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The US Department of Justice has requested an interview with Prince Andrew as part of its criminal investigation into the alleged sex trafficking ring once operated by Jeffrey Epstein, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The request, initiated by federal prosecutors in the Manhattan US Attorney's office, is part of a mutual legal assistance treaty request -- a form of cooperation between countries for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of criminal offenses -- submitted to the UK's Home Office, according to the source.

A spokesman for the US Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, Nick Biase, said: "I cannot publicly comment on communications with foreign governments on investigative matters, including confirming or denying the very existence of such communications."

In a statement Monday, Prince Andrew's legal team said that "any pursuit of an application for mutual legal assistance would be disappointing."

They said the Justice Department had told them "that the Duke is not and has never been a 'target' of their criminal investigations into Epstein" and that Prince Andrew "has on at least three occasions this year offered his assistance as a witness to the DOJ."

Criticizing what they described as a breach of confidentiality on the part of the Justice Department, they said that in claiming Prince Andrew hasn't been cooperative, "they are perhaps seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered."

Buckingham Palace and the UK Home Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Though Epstein died in August 2019 while awaiting trial on federal charges that he sexually abused underage girls and ran a sex-trafficking ring, prosecutors have continued to pursue investigations of people who they believe helped Epstein carry out an alleged multi-year sex trafficking operation.