As it is revealed Fergie accepted £15,000 from Prince Andrew’s convicted child sex offender friend, Ministers announced they would not shed tears if the Duke of York quits his job as UK trade envoy.
In a deal that Sarah Ferguson claims was brokered by Prince Andrew, disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein paid £15,000 to her former personal assistant, to help pay off spiralling debts.
Last night, the Duchess of York accepted that she was wrong to relyfinancially on the disgraced billionaire and vowed to return the money, but her admission has dealt yet another blow to her ex-husband’s attempts to save his career.
The extent of the duke and duchess’s dealings with Epstein has raised questions over Andrew’s abilities to continue in his government role with UK Trade and Investment.
A close friend of Prince Andrew defended him yesterday saying: ‘Epstein had nothing to do with his financial affairs, these issues are to do with the Duchess of York’s finances only.’
And a spokesman for Sarah Ferguson said: ‘She is now debt-free and coming to different arrangements with different creditors.
‘The duchess recognises that it was unwise to accept this help and will return the money to Mr O’Sullivan as soon as possible.’
The Jeffery Epstein scandal has put further pressure on the Duke of York to resign as Britain’s trade ambassador or face a humiliating downgrade in his role.
Officials have been instructed to praise the prince for his ‘valuable contribution’ but will go no further to defend him, as ministers privately suggest he is damaging Britain’s reputation.
Lord Oakeshott, a senior Liberal Democrat peer and the party’s former Treasury spokesman said: ‘If the Duke of York was working for a private-sector business, the board would be asking whether he is a salesman now carrying too much baggage.’
But Foreign Secretary William Hague said: ‘I’ve seen a lot of benefits that he has brought in countries that I have visited, where he’s been performing his role.’
Business Secretary Vince Cable, whose department is responsible for UKTI, also maintained that Prince Andrew had made a valuable contribution but when declined to comment on whether he should continue in his role.