Friday, March 20, 2020
Has Prince Andrew been rescuing young girls from sex trafficking all along? No.
PETER FROST uncovers yet more of the disgraced duke’s dirty dealings
JUST when we thought Prince Andrew had run out of lies, we hear that despite assurances that he would be happy to give an interview to criminal investigation authorities on his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the FBI tells us that Andrew has given them “zero co-operation” following requests for an interview about his close friendship with the convicted paedophile.
Prince Andrew has been keeping his head down generally. Just to be clear, that isn’t the same thing as his favourite face-down massage. Some 230 charities and universities of which he was patron or similar have sacked him or hinted they want nothing more to do with him. His mother — the Queen — it seems is pleased about this. She hopes it may protect the monarchy from further embarrassment and humiliation.
Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson, with whom he still lives, are a bit disappointed. Many of the charities provided the prince, or both of them, with all-expenses paid visits to many exotic locations at home and abroad. Also each organisation held a formal royal lunch or dinner each year — providing two-thirds of the couple’s annual nosh.
The pair will get no more free tickets to the English National Ballet and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, both of which had him as patron.
Charities involved with young children were quick to realise his connection with a convicted paedophile as well as accusations made about his own behaviour with underage girls could be embarrassing to say the least. Out he went.
It seems even the Queen pulled the plug on a planned 60th birthday party for Andrew in February. Despite Andrew being her favourite child the big palace bash was downsized to a discrete family gathering.
The prince appears to be trying to hang on to his role with what was called “Pitch@Palace” a scheme for young entrepreneurs rather like Dragons Den with Prince Andy as chief dragon.
In the real TV show the dragons use their own money — but Andy is smarter, or greedier than that. He got high-profile business sponsors like Barclays, the accountancy firm KPMG, the Standard Chartered Bank and the telecoms company Inmarsat to put up the cash.
Happily, all of them have now pulled out over the prince’s recent behaviour.
Buckingham Palace issued a statement saying: “The duke will continue to work on what has been renamed ‘Pitch’ and will look at how he takes this forward outside of his public duties and outside of Buckingham Palace. We recognise there will be a period of time while this transition takes place.”
Meanwhile Parliament has launched an investigation into the way the scheme was run as a private company.
Another charity initiative set up by the prince to help young women trafficked for sex in India has been embroiled in allegations of mistreatment.
Andrew started “Key to Freedom” in May 2012, soon after he was pictured walking with Epstein in Central Park, New York, following the paedophile billionaire’s release from prison.
He claimed his new charity would financially empower vulnerable young women in India by selling their handmade fashion items in Britain through retailers including Topshop and the Buckingham Palace website.
However, the initiative soon fell into financial decline and is now largely inactive, despite being highlighted by the prince and his family as a success story throughout the scandal of his association with Epstein.
In fact, exactly when the prince’s team was setting up the Key to Freedom project, its partner charity in India, the Women’s Interlink Foundation (WIF), which manages care homes for vulnerable children and young women, was being investigated by the Indian authorities.
Ten girls aged between 12 and 15 had run away from one of the WIF’s two homes for trafficked and orphaned girls alleging that they were beaten by staff and generally mistreated.
WIF admits it did not tell the prince about the investigation, which it says cleared the care home. But it refused to publish the official police report or its own internal report. WIF’s founder Aloka Mitra dismissed the young women’s complaints, stating: “Some of them said we did not get the correct kind of chapatis.”
Clearly, Prince Andrew and his team failed to conduct due diligence on his partner charity – as indeed they did with Key to Freedom that also faces criticism that it gave false hope of financial security to the women making the hand-printed silk scarves, which were sold online at the Royal Collection shop.
The duke’s website also claims the initiative has “changed the fate of more than 100 vulnerable young women” and is still active. But WIF confirms no scarves have been available to buy through retailers for more than 18 months and only tiny orders for tote bags were placed.
These tote bags were given as gifts to guests at Andrew’s daughter Princess Eugenie’s wedding last year. The young women who made them in India got just £1.50 per bag. One guest at the wedding was Sarajit Mitra, head of the Indian charity — I hope he was served the right kind of chapati.
Mitra, WIF’s chief operating officer and son of the founder, has said that orders from Topshop declined after 2013 and stopped abruptly in June 2018 without any explanation from the prince or his team, which he described as “rude”.
Despite this, in late August a royal source close to the prince said he was particularly dismayed that his efforts to help victims of sex trafficking were being overlooked while his connections with Epstein once again hit headlines.
Mitra also said the women earned on average up to £150 per year — equivalent to 41p a day. WIF took 40 per cent of the price of any scarves they made.
The money from sales is put into accounts for the workers, but it cannot be accessed without permission from Mitra. Reportedly the women cannot leave the barbed wire compound without guards who accompany them to shops to buy essential items that are not covered by the money the state pays to WIF.
Mitra was given copies of letters written by girls who had lived in the home where they expressed their unhappiness. One letter alleges girls in the home are badly treated and “when the children want to complain, then they are told off and are asked to be quiet about it.”
The British High Commission in India was responsible for introducing the duke to WIF. One key member of the Prince’s team Amanda Thirsk, his private secretary, was at the centre of the Key to Freedom project.
Thirsk was the one who advised the prince to take part in his disastrous BBC Newsnight interview. She no longer works for him.
Andy’s ex-wife Ferguson came up with the Key to Freedom name and Andrew’s charitable trust donated £10,000 seed capital. The initiative launched formally in 2013, with an order from Sir Philip Green’s Topshop.
Just like his refusal to talk about his relationship with Epstein, Andy is also saying nothing about these Indian charities and nor is Topshop, which was involved with the Key to Freedom project at the same time that top boss Green was himself facing allegations of sexual and racial harassment of staff.
Andy and Fergie’s latest scam is to get you and I — the taxpayer — to pay for his other daughter Beatrice’s upcoming wedding just as we did for his daughter Eugenie’s three-and-a-half million pound bash.
Most amazing is that Andrew, disgraced cheat and scam artist, remains the eighth in line to the throne.