US prosecutors seek interview with Prince Andrew over Epstein link

(CNN) – 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" adding that he "recently repeated his willingness to provide a witness statement."

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."

Hours later, Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, refuted those claims, saying the prince "has repeatedly declined our request to schedule such an interview, and nearly four months ago informed us unequivocally -- through the very same counsel who issued today's release -- that he would not come in for such an interview."

Berman added: "If Prince Andrew is, in fact, serious about cooperating with the ongoing federal investigation, our doors remain open, and we await word of when we should expect him."