Why Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial matters to the Duke of York

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·4 min read
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  • Ghislaine Maxwell
    Ghislaine Maxwell
    Socialite
  • Prince Andrew, Duke of York
    Prince Andrew, Duke of York
    Second son and third child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (born 1960)
  • Virginia Giuffre
    Alleged victim of the underage sex trafficking ring operated by Jeffrey Epstein
The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell and claims against Prince Andrew by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, pictured, which he has vehemently denied, are closely linked - Virginia Roberts Giuffre
The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell and claims against Prince Andrew by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, pictured, which he has vehemently denied, are closely linked - Virginia Roberts Giuffre

The Duke of York is not expected to get dragged into Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial, except, perhaps, for the occasional passing reference.

However, his lawyers will be watching the case as it gets underway in New York on Monday very closely, aware that, either way, the outcome matters.

Maxwell is at the very heart of the sexual abuse allegations made against Prince Andrew, their fates closely intertwined.

If she is found guilty, while the charges are not directly related to his own legal case, the verdict will cast a long shadow over the civil claim, giving an undeniable boost to his accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre.

Equally, if Maxwell is acquitted, it will “massively turn the tables,” one royal aide observed, serving to undermine Ms Giuffre’s testimony.

Sources have told The Telegraph that if she walks free, Maxwell is also prepared to give evidence on behalf of the Duke, her friend of more than 25 years.

Ms Giuffre, who claims she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew on three separate occasions, is not among the complainants who will take the stand in New York in the coming weeks, but could expect to play a prominent role in Maxwell’s second trial, on perjury charges.

However, legal experts do not believe the charges will see the light of day.

They relate to a now-settled defamation lawsuit brought by Ms Giuffre against Maxwell in 2015.

Maxwell is accused of lying about her involvement in Epstein’s heinous acts during two 2016 depositions in which she denied any knowledge of his sex trafficking empire.

In April, Alison Nathan, a US District Judge, ruled that the two perjury counts should be tried separately from the sex trafficking and abuse charges, and split the trial into two.

A deal is likely

Mark Stephens, of London law firm Howard Kennedy, said: “If Ghislaine is acquitted, the prosecution case will have been dismantled. There will be no appetite to pursue these charges, not least as perjury is notoriously difficult to prosecute successfully.

“They might try and do some kind of deal based on time served, so they are not erased from the record completely, as she will have been behind bars for 18 months by that point.”

If Maxwell is convicted of the abuse and trafficking charges, it is thought the perjury charges will be left to lie on file. She will already be facing the rest of her life in jail.

Stephens said the prosecution knew they would be vulnerable on the perjury charges and had used them to try to instigate a plea deal, as well as to pile pressure on Maxwell to reveal information relating to other associates of Epstein.

Bradley Simon, a former federal prosecutor in New York who now works as a defence attorney specialising in complex civil litigation, agreed that the perjury trial may not go ahead.

“It would depend on what she’s convicted of and what the potential prison sentence would be,” he said. “They may not proceed with the perjury. Conserving judicial resources is always a big consideration.”

For the Duke, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, a decision not to pursue a trial involving Ms Giuffre could only be good news.

Epstein’s most high-profile victim

She is arguably Epstein’s most high-profile victim, claiming that Maxwell recruited her to become his “sex slave” when she was just 16 before allegedly rising to the rank of “head bitch” among his many victims.

Lawyers, as well as sources close to the Duke, believe her testimony was not included in the forthcoming trial because her story is not “bulletproof” and her various inconsistencies might not withstand the rigorous scrutiny of the court.

Mr Simon said regardless, the Duke’s close links with Maxwell meant there could be no good outcome for him.

“It’s guilt by association if she’s convicted on these charges, charges of the same nature that are raised in the Prince Andrew complaint,” he said. “It can’t help but be damaging.”

As Ms Giuffre’s lawyers have conceded themselves, their case ultimately comes down to a question of credibility.

The Duke’s opening shot, fired in the form of a 36-page legal memorandum accompanying a motion to dismiss the case earlier this month, reinforced that point as it sought to portray her as a “money-hungry sex kitten” who was simply “after another payday at his expense”.

Ms Giuffre’s legal team is expected to respond to the motion on Monday.