by a Newsnet reporter
Gaffe prone Prince Andrew has been forced to step down from his role as the UK’s ‘special representative for trade and industry’. Although unpaid, the role gave the Prince access to a generous expenses account which was used to fund his many trips around the globe. There have been long-standing complaints about the lavish nature of the Prince’s foreign visits.
The decision that the Prince will step down from the role comes after a series of embarrassing revelations over the Prince’s ‘arrogant’ manner and his friendships and associations with a number of individuals. In the leaked US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks it was discovered that the US ambassador thought the Prince was “rude” and “cocky”.
Andrew’s continuing friendship with American financier Jeffrery Epstein has perhaps attracted the most controversy.
Epstein was convicted in 2008 on a charge of soliciting the prostitution of a minor, a girl of 14 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. As a result of the conviction Epstein is now registered as a sex-offender. A number of other young women aged between 13 and 19 have since come forward to allege that Epstein sexually assaulted them. Epstein is also reportedly being investigated by the FBI on allegations of money laundering and financial irregularities. Epstein denies all the allegations against him.
Despite the controversy surrounding the financier, Prince Andrew was a regular visitor to Epstein’s home. His trips were paid for by the British taxpayer as Prince Andrew claimed to be representing British trading interests on his frequent visits to the USA.
Other figures with whom the Prince has had personal or business dealings which have raised eyebrows include Timor Kulibayev, the son-in-law of the authoritarian President of Kazakhstan. In 2007 Mr Kulibayev bought the Prince’s former home at Sunningdale Park for £15m, £3m more than the asking price. The Prince has consistently declined to discuss why Mr Kulibayev so generously paid him an extra £3m.
More recently the Prince’s judgement was again called into question after it emerged that he had held a number of meetings with Saif Gaddafi, son of the Libyan dictator, and had entertained the son-in-law of deposed Tunisian dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, at Buckingham Palace.
In his 2011 annual review, published on Thursday, the duke said: “As the evolution of my role continues apace and in order to reflect the changes I have outlined, I have decided that the label I gave myself when I began this role of Special Representative has served its purpose and is no longer necessary to the work that I do today and, more importantly, in the future.”
It is believed that the Prince’s decision was made as an attempt by Buckingham Palace to solve its public relations problem with the Prince. According to an unnamed Westminster source quotes in the Financial Times: “I think they have been finding a suitable occasion to allow him to step down and his annual report has provided it.”
The Prince has announced that he will continue to represent British trade and business interests abroad “when invited to do so”. He will also continue to receive expenses.