Prince Andrew under pressure over links to Jeffrey Epstein, sex offender

Prince Andrew, fourth in line to the British throne, faces losing his role as a U.K. special trade envoy amid concerns over his business dealings with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Revelations that he had links with Epstein, a billionaire U.S. financier who served a jail sentence for soliciting an under age girl for prostitution, are the latest in a series of embarrassments involving the prince.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that Prince Andrew — the brother of Prince Charles and uncle to princes Harry and William — was named in legal documents relating to the activities of Epstein.

It said the FBI is opening an inquiry into Epstein after one of his "under-age erotic masseuses," Virginia Roberts, made allegations about her role. A photograph has also emerged showing the prince with his arm around Roberts, then aged 17.

The Daily Mail on Monday also claimed that Andrew brokered a deal that saw Epstein give $25 million to help pay off debts amassed by the prince's ex-wife Sarah Ferguson.

The prince has categorically denied all claims of wrongdoing or impropriety.

Chris Bryant, a former U.K. Foreign Office minister for the opposition Labour party called for the prince to be relieved of his duties.

"Why on earth is Prince Andrew still the U.K.’s special trade envoy?" he wrote in the Daily Mirror newspaper. "The list of his boorish gaffes and dodgy friendships is now so lengthy he’s bringing not just the U.K., but the royal family, into disrepute."

But Business Secretary Vince Cable insisted it would be up to the prince whether or not he stood down.

"I think we have to remember he is not doing this as a volunteer, he is not a government appointee, his not somebody who is appointed and sacked," Cable said in a separate BBC interview.

"The assessment of the businesses I have seen that have worked with him is that he has been supportive and helpful.

"I think it is down to him to judge the position he wants to be in. Obviously there are conversations which will take place with him about what he's to do in future."

The claims follow reports that the prince hosted a leading member of the deposed Tunisian dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali at the British royal family's Buckingham Palace three months before the regime collapsed.

Questions have also been raised about the prince's involvement in Britain's failed bid to host the 2018 soccer World Cup amid claims he violated rules in trying to use royal influence to secure the support of Qatar.

— Barry Neild