Embattled royal Prince Andrew announced Wednesday he was stepping back from public duties “for the foreseeable future” in the wake of a “car crash” of an interview about his longtime friendship with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
“It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in many organizations and charities that I am proud to support,” Andrew said in a statement released by Buckingham Palace.
Facing a wave of criticism, the Duke of York announced he had sought permission from the Queen to “step back from public duties for the foreseeable future,” and went on to apologize to Epstein’s victims.
“I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein,” the prince said in his statement, while also for the first time offering to cooperate with law enforcement.
“His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathize with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure,” Andrew added.
The bombshell announcement comes after an ill-fated BBC interview on Saturday where the British prince 59, bizarrely claimed a medical condition had left him incapable of “sweating profusely” — a description leveled at him by an accuser.
Andrew is accused of having sex with one of Epstein’s underage “sex slaves” and continuing his friendship with the wealthy financier even after Epstein was convicted of having sex with a minor in 2008.
As corporate sponsors rushed to sever ties with charities and organizations linked to Andrew, questions also arose about how the royal maintained a billionaire Lothario lifestyle on his $321,000 annual allowance from the Queen and a naval pension worth $25,000 a year.
In 2015, Andrew splurged on a $16 million chalet in the sought-after Swiss town of Verbier while also forking over $9 million to renovate Royal Lodge, his official residence in Berkshire, the UK Sun reported Wednesday.
Since his divorce from Sarah Ferguson in 1996, the prince has also been repeatedly photographed cavorting on luxury megayachts with topless women and holidaying with convicted Libyan gun runners and Saudi billionaires.
Seeking to explain his lavish lifestyle, the Sun report suggested Andrew had been benefitting from his well-documented controversial friendships with tycoons and autocrats in corrupt countries such as Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Kazakhstan — using whatever influence he has to curry favor with dictators.
The royal has faced particular scrutiny over his friendship with the billionaire leader of the gas-rich former Soviet state of Azerbaijan, who has been accused of rigging elections and torturing political opponents.
A 2014 UK Independent article dubbed him “Air Miles Andy” and raised concerns about his 11 meetings with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev on official business in the past decade.
The prince’s attempts to distance himself from Epstein in the bizarre BBC interview were disastrous and, by Monday, companies such as accounting powerhouse KPMG were clamoring to end their association with him — yanking their sponsoring of his Pitch@Palace entrepreneurship program.
On Wednesday, Standard Chartered, Aon and multiple Australian universities also headed for the exit while telecommunications giant BT confirmed to the Guardian that it would not work with the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA) unless Andrew was removed as patron.
Privately, the backlash has troubled the duke’s two daughters who have their own charities — one of them supporting trafficked women, Vanity Fair reported.
While the royal family was putting on a united front, Princess Eugenie was “very worried” about how the scandal linking her father to a convicted pedophile would damage her Anti-Slavery Collective organization, according to the report.
Additional reporting by Lia Eustachewich and Amanda Woods