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Like Us – Let’s Be Friends
Even royalty get into bad company. This is the realization one gets from a recent row on the British Isles over Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and his friendship with the American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. The hedge fund mogul served 13 months in jail in 2008 for soliciting an underaged girl for prostitution in Florida and Mr Epstein remains under investigation by the FBI for his alleged involvement with underaged girls. Prince Andrew, who is no stranger to scandal, was implicated when a photo emerged of him at Epstein’s mansion with his arm around an underaged prostitute. It was also revealed that the Prince had made an agreement with Epstein to donate a significant sum of money last year to bail out Sarah Ferguson, the former Duchess of York’s, of debt.
The scandal is polluting the run-up to the royal wedding of a decade – Prince William and Kate Middleton will marry in late April and this event is expected to bring a much needed boost the throne. However, the attention has now been temporarily diverted by Queen Elisabeth’s second son and questions have been raised whether the Duke of York should be allowed to continue his job as Special Representative for International Trade and Investment. The skepticism is fueled by the fact that this incident is not the first display of the Prince’s questionable choice of friendships.
Among the examples is Prince Andrews close relationship with Saif Gaddafi, the son of Libya’s brutal dictator as well as ‘close ties’ with the President of Azerbaijan, Aliyev, who is thought to have engaged in torture, election-rigging and the imprisonment of opponents. And three months before the revolution in Tunisia, his royal highness hosted a lunch at Buckingham Palace for the son-in-law of the recently ousted dictator, Ben Ali. Officially, the British government has taken his defense and supported the Prince’s continuous role as Special Representative. The Business Secretary Vince Cable has stated that Prince Albert has done ‘very good work’ opening doors for British trade, but did not wish to comment on his continuous diplomatic responsibilities. However, according to Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, more than one anonymous government official has disowned the Duke and his conduct to the British media.
Bad company happens to not be the only issue dragging behind the fourth heir to the British throne. Chris Bryant, who worked at the Foreign Ministry under the Labour government, has called the Prince a ‘national embarrassment’ and accuses him of conducting his work for his own benefit and not that of the nation. Bryant also criticized his travel arrangements as ‘extravagant’, leaving the taxpayers with a yearly cost of £436.000.
The Duke’s marriage and divorce to Sarah Ferguson has been another publicity issue for the Royal family and their relationship continues to give birth to scandals once in a while. The latest example was in May 2010 when Ferguson offered to set up contacts between a businessman and her ex-husband in exchange for £500.000, unaware that the ‘businessman’ was in fact an undercover tabloid journalist. She later apologized for her ‘lapse in judgement’ while it was denied that Prince Albert had any knowledge of the set-up.
In the wake of the FBI investigation, the Prince told the media that he has cut all ties with Mr Epstein but it is not further back than December that the Prince had been on a four-day visit to Epstein’s home in New York. The Prince will most likely keep his position as a Special Representative, if not as much diplomatic as ceremonial, but it seems that the name given by Simon Wilson, a retired British diplomat, fits Prince Alberts long list of blunders: ‘His Buffoon Highness’.