Prince Andrew denies knowledge of criminal behaviour by former friend Jeffrey Epstein
Britain's Prince Andrew has commented on his relationship with accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who was found hanged in prison in Manhattan last weekend.
Read more: Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein dead from suicide in Manhattan prison
The Duke of York had been criticised for his former friendship with Epstein, who killed himself while waiting to stand trial, charged with one count of sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking. He faced up to 45 years in prison if found guilty.
Following a brief statement from Buckingham Palace, Prince Andrew made his first comments on the matter in a statement on Saturday, saying he wanted to "clarify the facts" around his "former association or friendship" with the US financier.
He went on to say that it was a "mistake and an error" to see Epstein when he left prison in 2010.
"At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction," he added.
"I have tremendous sympathy for all those affected by his actions and behaviour," the Duke of York said. "His suicide has left many unanswered questions and I acknowledge and sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure."
The British royal said he met Epstein in 1999 and saw him "infrequently" and "probably no more than only once or twice a year", but had stayed in a number of his residences.
Epstein, who was arrested on July 6, pleaded not guilty to the federal charges of sex trafficking, which involved dozens of underage girls as young as 14.
He was already a registered sex offender after pleading guilty in 2008 to Florida state charges of unlawfully paying a teenage girl for sex.
French authorities announced on Friday they were conducting a preliminary probe to uncover whether any sexual assault offences linked to the case against Epstein were committed on the country's soil or on French nationals.
The French NGO "Innocence en danger" called on the country's authorities to launch an investigation on July 12, citing Epstein's arrest upon his return "from a weeks-long trip in France."
"He owns a property in Paris, which he visits regularly," the NGO said in an open letter, adding: "it is legitimate to wonder if there are any minor victims" in the country.
Prior to his conviction, he had counted the rich and powerful, with US President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton among his associates.