Prince Andrew could raise £10million from the sale of his Swiss chalet to settle sex abuse claims out of court, it has been reported.
Legal experts say it is his ‘least worst option’ after a US judge ruled he should face a civil trial this autumn over allegations he sexually assaulted Virginia Giuffre when she was 17.
Ms Giuffre alleges that she was made to have sex with Andrew on three occasions in 2001 and while she was the victim of a trafficking ring orchestrated by billionaire peadophile Jeffry Epstein and his girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.
The Duke of York, who has always vehemently denied the allegations, is understood to be prepared to do ‘whatever is necessary’ to stop the case overshadowing the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Reports have suggested Ms Giuffre is unlikely to accept a financial settlement because she wants to send a message that anyone accused of preying on young girls will face the full force of the law.
But last night her lawyer refused to rule this option out, telling The Sun: ‘I think Virginia is determined to go to trial, but settlement is always a possibility.’
Senior royal aides are said to all be urging Andrew to settle as soon as possible to prevent him dragging the ‘whole monarchy through the mud’.
His legal team, reported to cost £2000-an-hour, were last night locked in talks amid the ‘biggest constitutional crisis in living memory’.
The Queen is reported to be bankrolling Andrew’s case, but it would be considered a PR disaster if she paid off an alleged sex abuse victim to end the claims against her son.
The key to a settlement could be his £18m chalet in Verbier, Switzerland.
The Daily Mail reports that Andrew found a mystery buyer after settling an outstanding £6million debt to French socialite Isabelle de Rouvre, 74, who sold it to him and Sarah Ferguson in 2014.
If the case does go to trial, Andrew will be expected to give a sworn witness statement answering Ms Giuffre’s claims.
Sworn statements from Ms Ferguson and daughters Princess Beatrice and Eugenie are also a possibility.
A full civil trial with a jury could see Andrew cross-examined about his sex life and his links to Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.
A spokesman for the Duke refused to comment.
His lawyers have previously claimed a financial offer has not been discussed but accepted more than 95% of US civil trials are settled out of court.
Mark Stephens, an expert in constitutional law, said: ‘This has dropped a bomb on the Royal Family. It is the most serious problem in living memory.
‘The only thing to make it worse would be if he were cross-examined over what he did or didn’t do to a 17-year-old woman. He has to settle now. It is his least worst option. He would be lampooned by Ms Giuffre’s lawyer in court.
‘Someone in the Royal Family must grab the tiller and guide this to a safe shore.
‘The Queen will be taking advice from Downing Street, Privy Councillors and her trusted aides.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at email@example.com.
For more stories like this, check our news page.