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The Prince and the Pedophile

AP File

Prince Andrew's links to convicted pedophile and billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, pictured above in May 2005, have been making headlines in the U.K.

by Anne Thompson, NBC News correspondent

In London, the talk is not of the upcoming royal wedding, but rather about Prince Andrew's choice of friends. Specifically, his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire and convicted pedophile. 

Epstein served 13 months in jail beginning in 2008 for soliciting a minor for prostitution and is a registered sex offender in the state of New York. 

Now he is front page news in the U.K., pushing the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton aside.

The most cursory Google search tells you Epstein is bad news. His interest in underage girls has made him a staple of Gawker.com. 

Yet The Daily Telegraph reports Thursday that he got what's described as "unusual" permission to land his private jet last December at an RAF fighter base.

Where was Epstein headed? He was on his way to visit Prince Andrew at Queen Elizabeth's Sandringham estate. Logs obtained by The Daily Telegraph show Epstein was accompanied by his close friend Ghislane Maxwell, a woman named Kelly Spamm, someone listed as "ET" and thought to be Maxwell's assistant Emily Taylor, Tom Pritzker, and an unnamed “female."

The Telegraph reports that in several civil lawsuits brought by Epstein's U.S. victims, they claim he broke American laws by using his fleet of private planes to take underage girls across state and international borders for sex.

Sex slave allegation
The paper has a picture of Prince Andrew with Virginia Roberts, who claims she was one of Epstein's sex slaves. There is no evidence that Andrew had any sexual contact with Epstein's girls.

The relationship between the Prince and the pedophile goes back many years, long before Epstein was convicted of his sex crime.

Under the headline of "Princesses and the Paedo" (in Britain, pedophile is spelled paedophile), the Daily Mirror reports Epstein briefly met Andrew's daughters in Nassau in 1998. At the time, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice were nine and eight.

Andrew is not a do-nothing royal. He is a special representative for U.K. international trade and investment.

His use of public funds has changed the tabloid moniker of his youth "Randy Andy" to "Air Miles Andy."

In recent days, Andrew's meeting with Moammar Gadhafi, his ties to Gadhafi's son Saif, the purchase of his home for $4.8 million over the asking price by one of Kazakhstan's richest men, and his links to nations with histories of human rights violations have all come under fire. 

Those stories have raised the questions about whether the Prince's influence can be bought. Last year, Andrew's ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson — famous for her own money problems as well as her Weight Watchers commercials — was taped offering to sell access to the Prince to a reporter posing as a businessman.

But nothing matches the ire raised over his friendship with Epstein.  Ferguson is apologizing for accepting Epstein's offer to pay $24,000 to a former aide. The Prince is promising to cut ties with Epstein. 

Yet, it is doing little to quell the furor. He may be royal by blood but increasingly the evidence shows that when it comes to judgment of friends, this prince is just plumb dumb.