The US has sought the handing over of UK's Prince Andrew to the country's police for questioning over the links with Jeffery Epstein, late financier and sex offender. The UK government has been intimated formally by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) that the Duke of York was now part of a criminal investigation, according to media reports.

The 60-year-old UK royal has vehemently denied any part in any illegal activity. However, he is yet to be questioned by prosecutors from the US.

Bypassing The Palace

Now, the US appears to have bypassed Buckingham Palace by filing a "mutual legal assistance" request to the Home Office last month, the Sun newspaper has claimed. Such requests are only used in criminal cases under a legal treaty with the UK. That could force the Royal to appear as a witness in a UK court within months – either voluntarily, or by being summoned from the DoJ.

Prince Andrew at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, 1st September 2011
Prince Andrew Thorne1983 / Wikimedia Commons

"It's a huge statement of intent from the US and it moves Andrew into the realms of a criminal investigation. It's also frankly a diplomatic nightmare," a source told the Sun:

A source close to the Duke's legal team told the Metro newspaper on Sunday evening: "Legal discussions with the DoJ are subject to strict confidentiality rules, as set out in their own guidelines.

"We have chosen to abide by both the letter and the spirit of these rules, which is why we have made no comment about anything related to the DoJ during the course of this year. We believe in playing straight bat."

Removed From Royal Duties Last Year

A Buckingham Palace told Metro newspaper that the development was a matter for Prince Andrew's legal team. The UK royal was removed from public duties last November following allegations he had slept with a teenager who was trafficked by Epstein, who was found dead in his New York jail cell while awaiting trial last August.

The victim, Virginia Giuffre, has claimed she was trafficked when she was 17 and was forced into sexual encounters with the Prince in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein.

Prince Andrew has denied any wrongdoing and last year, he had indicated his willingness to cooperate with investigators. Epstein was found dead in his New York jail cell while awaiting trial last August. His death was subsequently ruled a suicide.

(With inputs from agencies)