The New York lawyer leading the Jeffrey Epstein investigation has made it "virtually impossible" for the Duke of York to co-operate, sources have said.
Escalating the extraordinary row between Prince Andrew and US attorney Geoffrey Berman, insiders on Tuesday hit back at claims that the 60-year-old royal has "repeatedly declined" the FBI's requests for an interview.
It came after Mr Berman's office issued a hard-hitting statement on Monday night, accusing Andrew of "falsely portraying himself to the public as eager and willing to co-operate", in response to suggestions that he had offered to assist the investigation three times this year.
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On Monday, the Duke complained through his lawyers that he was being treated as a second-class citizen by the US justice system, insisting it was "entirely misleading" to say he had offered "zero co-operation".
His fightback came after the US Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a "mutual legal assistance" (MLA) request to the Home Office, formally seeking help to question him.
Insisting that Andrew remains a "witness" rather than a target of the ongoing federal investigation into billionaire paedophile Epstein's sex trafficking ring, the source said: "The Duke would have co-operated fully with Berman had he not chosen to make an example of him.
"What we saw yesterday was a trebling down by Berman on this consistent modus operandi of throwing away the rule book and commenting on what are supposed to be completely confidential discussions surrounding the co-operation of a witness.
"Why does he get to tear the rule book up? Who does he think he is? There is no way that statement was designed to encourage the Duke to co-operate. It was a sarcastic, knee-jerk response to a very reasonable and factually accurate statement about the assistance the Duke has offered so far. In fact, all it does is confirm what we have been dealing with here all along."
Royal insiders have accused Mr Berman of "seeking publicity" and using the Duke as a "scapegoat" for the failings in the case, pointing out that the royal was first contacted in January despite Epstein having been investigated for 16 years.
In March, a spokesman for Mr Berman's office confirmed to The Telegraph that both legal teams had been in contact since January.
Sources close to the Duke insist his lawyers had made it clear that they would "work up a straw man as a framework for the Duke to co-operate with the DoJ". They say they were left stunned when days later, on January 27, Mr Berman told a news conference outside Epstein's Upper East Side mansion that Andrew had offered "zero co-operation".
Then, on March 9, Mr Berman doubled down on that claim, saying the Duke had "completely shut the door" on the investigation. The source added: "Every time Berman has opened his mouth, he has undermined his own case."
The Duke's lawyers, Blackfords, have declined to comment further on his next steps.
Overnight, it emerged that the Queen's son may be asked to provide access to his computers and mobile phones as part of the MLA request because he had a "long-distance relationship" with Epstein.
A legal source told The Telegraph the diametrically opposed statements issued by Mr Berman and the Duke's lawyers were probably due to differences of interpretation.
"It's possible Andrew's lawyers wanted him to just give a statement, or that they wanted conditions for an interview such as immunity and that it not be on oath," the source said.
"But the prosecutors will want to speak to him, and they will want him on oath. Being under oath is important, not because of him, but so they can use what he says in court in any other prosecution, for example of Ghislaine Maxwell [the daughter of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, who introduced Andrew to Epstein in 1999].
"It's possible his lawyers might think 'Yes, he'll help' but set requirements the prosecutor's office cannot go along with. It's different perspectives on what co-operation means."
The legal source said that, if there was an information subpoena, US prosecutors were likely "throw in the kitchen sink", adding: "That means testimony, computers, cell phones, everything.
"This was a long-distance relationship [with Epstein], so yes I think it will mean his computers and cell phones. There might be a lot on there, you've got to look.
"The interview would normally be done in person, but because of the pandemic the prosecutors might not fly over. They might do it virtually, or get officials already in the UK to do it. It seems unlikely they would go down the court route – it would be a private interview.
"What Andrew needs to recognise is that this isn't going away."