LONDON: Disgraced former socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has claimed in a jailhouse interview with a UK broadcaster that a decades-old photograph of Prince Andrew with his sexual abuse accuser Virginia Giuffre is “fake”.
Maxwell, a friend to British royalty is imprisoned in a Florida penitentiary after her conviction and 20-year sentence for helping late financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse girls.
Giuffre has claimed she was trafficked by the pair to, among others, Andrew, King Charles III's younger brother.
The 39-year-old sued the discredited royal in a United States court, claiming they had sex in London when she was 17 and a minor under US law.
He settled the sexual assault lawsuit at considerable cost last year, sparing him the public humiliation of a trial.
The prince, 62, has not been criminally charged and has continued to deny the accusations.
But he stepped back from royal duties and was stripped of his military titles amid a public outcry over the reported £12 million (then-$16.3 million) settlement.
A photograph of Andrew with his arm around Giuffre's waist and Maxwell standing next to them -- said to have been taken in London in 2001 -- is seen as crucial to the claim against the prince.
But in her US federal prison interview with TalkTV, set to air in the UK on Monday evening, Maxwell, who has known him for decades, is adamant the image is not genuine.
“It’s a fake. I don’t believe it’s real for a second, in fact I’m sure it’s not,“ she states.
“There’s never been an original and further there is no photograph. I’ve only ever seen a photocopy of it.”
The late Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son has insisted he had never met Giuffre, and in a disastrous 2019 BBC interview also appeared to question the photo's authenticity.
“I don’t believe that photograph was taken in the way that has been suggested,“ he told the broadcaster at the time.
“It’s a photograph of a photograph of a photograph... Nobody can prove whether or not that photograph has been doctored.”
The comments by Maxwell, who is appealing her US conviction, come as British newspapers said Sunday that Andrew will bid to overturn the costly settlement he agreed with Giuffre almost a year ago.
It follows her dropping a separate abuse claim against celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
The Sun reported Andrew was consulting US lawyers Andrew Brettler and Blair Berk and hopes to force a retraction or even an apology, which it added could pave the way for a royal rehabilitation.
“I can tell you with confidence that the Prince Andrew team is now considering legal options,“ a “well-placed source” told the tabloid.
A representative for Andrew could not immediately be reached for comment.
Under a reported gagging clause in the settlement, Giuffre has been unable to talk publicly about the claim, but that is said to be set to end next month. - AFP