The Queen is privately funding the Duke of York’s legal fight against sex abuse allegations to the tune of millions of pounds, the Telegraph understands.
Prince Andrew, 61, last week expanded his American legal team, hiring Melissa Lerner, a Princeton and Columbia graduate, to work alongside lead counsel Andrew Brettler.
Both work for Lavley Singer, a renowned Los Angeles-based law firm reputed for its ability to make celebrities’ legal problems “go away” – and commanding the fees to do so.
Brettler is thought to be charging the Duke about US$2000 (NZ$2880) an hour, while Lerner’s appointment, their junior staff and his UK-based legal team, led by criminal defence solicitor Gary Bloxsome, have already sent his bills soaring.
Her Majesty, 95, agreed to pay for her son’s defence at the beginning of last year, shortly after his disastrous Newsnight interview, in which he failed to show any empathy for Jeffrey Epstein’s victims or regret over their friendship.
The funds will be sourced from her annual income from her private Duchy of Lancaster estate, which recently increased by £1.5 million (NZ$2.9m) to more than £23 million (NZ$45m).
Royal courtiers accept that the overall legal bill will run into millions, as the civil case is likely to drag on for months or even years. The prospect of a potential settlement, or damages payout, could cost many millions more on top.
Giuffre seeks 'substantial' compensatory and punitive damages
The Duke’s accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, 38, has not put a figure on the amount of compensation she is seeking for “significant emotional and psychological distress and harm” but is asking for compensatory and punitive damages, both of which would be “substantial”.
She has accused the Duke of sexually assaulting her on three separate occasions when she was 17, allegations he has always denied.
Duke has no discernible income, say experts
The Queen’s financial intervention was considered a necessity. The Duke’s personal finances are shrouded in mystery but experts point out that despite an affluent lifestyle, he has no discernible income.
He and his ex-wife, the Duchess of York, were sued last year by the previous owner of their Swiss ski chalet, who alleged that they owed her £6.7m after purchasing it for around £17m in 2014.
The chalet, bought with a mortgage and private funding from the Queen, is on the brink of being sold in order to repay that debt. The sale, when it goes through, will mean the Duke no longer owns any property.
He leases his home, Royal Lodge on the Queen’s Windsor estate, which is owned by the Crown estate.
It was the Duchess’s money troubles that shone a spotlight back on to the Duke’s ill-judged friendship with Epstein a decade ago, when she was forced to apologise after it emerged she had accepted £15,000 from him to help pay off her debts.
David Rowland, the financier said to co-own an offshore fund in the British Virgin Islands tax haven with the Duke, also reportedly paid £40,000 to help clear her debts in 2010.
The Queen’s involvement has meant that Bloxsome is obliged to keep Buckingham Palace updated on developments in the case.
However, attempts by courtiers to gain insight into his legal strategy are thought to have been rebuffed, as they have been kept largely in the dark.
The focus of the case has now shifted to the US, with the Duke’s team vowing to “robustly” engage with the legal process in order to clear his name.
Lerner describes herself in an online profile as an “entertainment litigator with big law experience in IP (intellectual property) and pharma litigation and white collar defence.”
The recently represented the family of Chris Cornell, the late singer with rock band Soundgarden, in a case against a doctor they alleged had overprescribed drugs to the musician.
The terms of the settlement, which was finalised in May, were not disclosed.
Lerner is an associate at Lavely Singer, which is headed by Marty Singer, who is known in Hollywood as “Mad Dog Marty”, and has represented stars including John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson, Charlie Sheen and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Duke returned to Windsor on Thursday after spending the last few weeks at Balmoral, the Queen’s Aberdeenshire estate, where he is thought to have kept his mother updated on the case during private lunches.
He has until October 29 to respond to the lawsuit and the next hearing is scheduled for November 3.
Source: Read Full Article