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Prince Andrew’s lawsuit settlement puts focus on who will pay

After clearing a debt, Prince Andrew can now sell his chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. (Cyril Zingaro/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
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Britain’s Prince Andrew has been stripped of his military titles, royal honorifics and any illusion that he might return to a prominent and privileged public life.

Assets including a chalet in Switzerland could soon be gone as well, sold off to raise cash for the settlement of a U.S. federal court case alleging that he had sex with a teenager without her consent two decades ago.

Andrew quietly cleared the way to sell his seven-bedroom Swiss lodge with an indoor swimming pool late last year, paying millions he owed the previous owner to remove a court claim that would have impeded putting the property on the market.

The Duke of York had for years failed to pay the final $8 million installment of the $29 million purchase, citing a lack of funds, said Isabelle de Rouvre, a French national who sold the property to Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, in 2014.

They finally came forward with the money, de Rouvre said, “only because they want to sell.” Noting Andrew’s mounting legal troubles, she said in a January interview with The Washington Post, “you can see where [any proceeds] are going to go.”

A spokesperson for Prince Andrew declined to comment for this article “on what are private financial matters.”

The Swiss property is one of the few obvious sources of revenue available for a prince long accused of living beyond his means and associating with problematic elites, including Jeffrey Epstein, the American financier and convicted sex offender accused of arranging sexual encounters for Andrew.

Britain’s Prince Andrew on Feb. 15 settled the sexual abuse lawsuit brought by a woman who said she was trafficked to him by the late financier Jeffrey Epstein. (Video: Alexa Juliana Ard, William Booth/The Washington Post)

What’s next for Prince Andrew, cast out into the royal wilderness?

Andrew has repeatedly denied the accusations against him and didn’t admit any culpability in a letter submitted with the settlement. But he agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to his accuser, including “a substantial donation" to her victims’ rights charity.

The Telegraph newspaper, citing its sources, reported the total could come to about $16 million. Legal observers had predicted to The Post that it could cost him more than $10 million, including legal fees, to settle the case and avoid a trial that could bring humiliation for the royal family — in a year when his 95-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II, is celebrating 70 years on the throne.

There is concern in Britain about where the defrocked prince will find the money, including whether the queen or even the public might somehow end up footing the bill. And questions about Andrew’s financial situation have drawn renewed attention to his business financial dealings over the past three decades.

In that span, Andrew sold an estate to a Kazakhstani oligarch for millions above the asking price and was linked to secret offshore accounts with a British financier. He faced criticism from members of Parliament for extravagant travel expenses while serving as an official trade representative, and was accused of using the position to advance close friends’ financial interests, if not his own.

“He is somebody who has famously relied upon being a royal to get subsidies, special travel and free services and arrangements,” said a former senior British official who at times engaged with the royal family. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject, compared Andrew to the brother of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, who was often mocked for seeking to profit from his White House ties. “Andrew wasn’t quite as bad as Jimmy Carter’s brother, but he was going that way,” the former official said.

The prince was forced to step down from his position as trade envoy in 2011 as part of the early fallout from his association with Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, a predatory power couple whose record of abusing underage women is directly linked to Andrew’s downfall.

In accounts over the years and the suit filed in federal court last year, Virginia Giuffre, 38, alleged that at 17 she was trafficked to Andrew by Epstein and Maxwell, and that the prince forced her into sex acts on three occasions — at Maxwell’s home in London, Epstein’s mansion in New York and on the financier’s private island in the Caribbean.

In 2009, Giuffre received a $500,000 settlement payment from Epstein, who a decade later would die in prison of an apparent suicide while awaiting a broader trial on sex trafficking charges. She was not called to testify in the trial that resulted in Maxwell’s conviction in December for grooming and coercing teenage girls who were subsequently abused.

Andrew has insisted he has no recollection of meeting Giuffre. He has been unable to explain a photo, reportedly taken in 2001 at Maxwell’s residence in London, that shows him and Giuffre smiling together, his hand on her waist.

The letter submitted with the settlement said Andrew “commends the bravery of Ms. Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others.” But the statement portrayed her as a victim of Epstein, not of the prince.

Legal and financial experts said it is highly unlikely that any portion of Andrew’s legal bills will be borne by British taxpayers, who subsidize the royal family through annual contributions that have totaled as much as $116 million in recent years. What’s known as the Sovereign Grant is earmarked for palace upkeep, the queen’s official duties and official travel by members of the family. A detailed report is released annually. Andrew hasn’t been listed since 2019, when the Epstein controversy forced him to give up his public role.

Instead, his case is likely to create a profound dilemma for the queen. Some commentators have argued that she can’t afford to risk the possible public outrage that might accompany use of her private fortune to pay off a woman who has accused her son of sexual assault.

Others believe she may have little choice.

“There has been speculation that it would be embarrassing to the queen if she had to pay a settlement,” said David McClure, author of “The Queen’s True Worth.” But “it would be far more embarrassing if she didn’t do something,” McClure said, and failed to head off a trial almost certain to produce more shameful revelations about her son.

“It’s in their interests to help him,” McClure said.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment, referring all questions from The Post to Prince Andrew’s spokesperson.

Andrew’s finances are so murky that little is known about whatever wealth he has accumulated, according to McClure and other experts. The Times of London reported last week that a company controlled by Andrew and used to manage his investments is more than $260,000 in debt. The move to sell the chalet certainly suggests “he is short of money,” McClure said.

His only known source of ongoing income is a modest $27,000 military pension from his service as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy, which included missions in the Falklands War.

In the past, he has reportedly relied on largesse from the queen, with an allowance drawn from income on the Duchy of Lancaster estate, a sprawling collection of revenue-generating properties in England.

Andrew and Ferguson, though divorced, live together at Royal Lodge, a property leased to the prince under terms that required him to invest in renovations but not to pay rent.

Andrew’s most lucrative known transaction remains one of the most controversial: the sale of Sunninghill Park, a 665-acre estate near Windsor Castle given to him as a wedding present by the queen.

The 12-bedroom complex sat on the market for five years following Andrew’s divorce. Then, in 2007, Timur Kulibayev, the son-in-law of Kazakhstan’s then-ruler, purchased the property for about $30 million, paying an eye-raising $6 million over the asking price, according to land registry figures.

Andrew defended the sale when it became public, telling the Telegraph newspaper: “It’s not my business the second the price is paid. If that is the offer, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and suggest they have overpaid me.”

The transaction recently came under new scrutiny when Kulibayev announced he was stepping down as head of a Kazakhstani business lobbying group amid allegations of corruption.

Kulibayev’s representatives at the Shillings law firm in London told The Post that the sale of Sunninghill Park reflected “a competitive bidding process.”

“After our client was made aware of another potential buyer, he paid the final asking price, as demanded by the seller,” the lawyers said in a statement, adding that his resignation from the lobbying group “was entirely voluntary and unconnected to any allegations of corruption or otherwise.”

In the years following the Sunninghill sale, Andrew reportedly entered a series of controversial arrangements with David Rowland, a British banker and developer, who in 2010 was tapped as Conservative Party treasurer, but bowed out amid criticism he had avoided paying taxes for decades.

That summer, Rowland was, according to British media reports, invited by Andrew to Balmoral, the Scottish holiday home of the royal family, for a visit that included a meeting with the queen and tea with Prince Charles. Months later, Rowland paid about $60,000 to assist Andrew in his efforts to help Ferguson clear millions of dollars in debts, according to media reports in which a spokesperson for Ferguson acknowledged contributions from “supportive friends.”

(Epstein, too, helped Ferguson to pay off her debts, giving about $24,000. She later said she regretted accepting the money and would return it when she could.)

Andrew brought Rowland’s son and business partner, Jonathan, on trips to China, Saudi Arabia and other countries he was visiting as part of his taxpayer-funded role as trade envoy, in some cases facilitating participation in meetings with potentially lucrative clients, according to a 2019 investigation by the Mail on Sunday, citing documents reporters had reviewed.

Andrew has also faced questions about whether he had a secret stake in a company established with David Rowland in the British Virgin Islands. The offshore firm was called Inverness Asset Management, a possible reference to Andrew’s “Earl of Inverness” title, according to the Mail report.

Andrew has consistently denied he ever used his position as trade representative for personal gain. In a written statement to The Post, Forsters, a law firm representing Rowland, said Inverness “was used by David Rowland to make personal investments” and that Andrew “was never a shareholder” nor “did he have any financial interest in it at all.”

In response to additional questions from The Post, Forsters added, “Mr. Rowland’s position is that the Balmoral visit was nothing to do with Prince Andrew, and that there was no subsequent payment.”

A more recent allegation surfaced that Andrew had taken out a loan of nearly $2 million in 2017 from Banque Havilland, a Luxembourg-based bank controlled by Rowland, and that the debt was paid off within days by companies associated with the financier. The alleged loan and payoff were first reported by Bloomberg News.

Forsters did not respond to related questions from The Post. The firm said the Rowlands have no ongoing relationship with Andrew, and have not contributed to his legal bills.

The Swiss chalet — the only known property that Andrew still possesses — is located in a mountainside village where other high-profile residents include airline and media tycoon Richard Branson.

Andrew and Ferguson rented the property for a year or more before moving to buy it, de Rouvre said in an interview, in a transaction that involved a large mortgage and a later cash payment of approximately $8 million.

At the couple’s behest, de Rouvre agreed to delay the cash payment until December 2019 on the condition that it would be paid with interest. When they missed that deadline, de Rouvre said she filed a claim in Swiss court that placed a legal cloud over Andrew’s ownership of the chalet.

“I asked them three or four times through my lawyer” why they had missed their payment, “and the answer was, ‘there’s no money,’” de Rouvre said. It’s not clear where Andrew or Ferguson got the funds to clear that debt late last year.

In the end, de Rouvre said she let Andrew off the hook for less than was owed.

“I didn’t get my interest,” she said. “I just don’t want to think about it anymore.”

Karla Adam in London and Alice Crites in Washington contributed to this report.

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