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Prince Andrew must face sex abuse accuser’s lawsuit – U.S. judge



Britain’s Prince Andrew failed to persuade a U.S. judge to dismiss Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit accusing the Duke of York of sexually abusing her when she was a teenager.

In a decision made public on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said Giuffre, 38, could pursue claims that Andrew battered her and intentionally caused her emotional distress while the late financier Jeffrey Epstein was trafficking her.

The Manhattan judge said it was premature to assess Andrew’s efforts to “cast doubt” on those claims, though the 61-year-old prince could do so at a trial.

Kaplan said it was also too soon to decide whether Giuffre’s 2009 civil settlement with Epstein “clearly and unambiguously” shielded Andrew from her lawsuit.

The judge did not address the merits of Giuffre’s claims.

Lawyers for Andrew did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

David Boies, a lawyer for Giuffre, in a statement said his client was pleased, and “looks forward to a judicial determination” of the merits of her claims.

Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth, has denied Giuffre’s accusations that he forced her to have sex more than two decades ago at a London home of former Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell, and abused her at two Epstein properties.

Kaplan’s decision keeps the case on track for a trial that he has said could begin between September and December 2022 if no settlement were reached.


Sarah Krissoff, a partner at Day Pitney and a former federal prosecutor, said the decision made it more likely Andrew would pursue an out-of-court settlement.

“I can’t imagine that Prince Andrew wants every detailed allegation to come out in the public realm,” she said. “If I were on Prince Andrew’s team, I most certainly would be having a discussion with him right now about resolving this case.”

In the 2009 settlement, Epstein paid Giuffre $500,000, without admitting liability, to end her Florida lawsuit accusing him of sexually abusing her when she was underage.

Giuffre’s claims against Andrew have not been proven, and the prince is not accused of criminal wrongdoing.

The case and Andrew’s ties to Epstein have nevertheless damaged the prince’s reputation and cost him many royal duties.

Andrew’s troubles grew after critics said he failed in a 2019 BBC interview to appear sympathetic toward Epstein’s abuse victims.

A spokesman for Buckingham Palace declined to comment on Kaplan’s decision.

Epstein killed himself at age 66 in a Manhattan jail cell in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Maxwell, 60, was convicted on Dec. 29 of recruiting and grooming girls for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004.

She is seeking a new trial after one juror told media, including Reuters, that during jury deliberations he had discussed being a victim of sexual abuse.


In his 44-page decision, Kaplan said the “muddled” language in Giuffre’s and Epstein’s settlement agreement suggested they may have reached “something of a middle ground.”

The settlement included language to “forever discharge” various people who “could have been included as a potential defendant” in Giuffre’s lawsuit against Epstein.

“We do not know what, if anything, went through the parties’ minds” when drafting the settlement, Kaplan wrote.

Giuffre and Andrew “have articulated at least two reasonable interpretations of the critical language,” the judge continued. “The agreement therefore is ambiguous.”

Settlement agreements can restrict plaintiffs like Giuffre from pursuing further litigation, even against third parties.

Kaplan also rejected Andrew’s claim that letting Giuffre sue violated his due process rights under New York’s constitution.

Giuffre sued Andrew last August, less than a week before the expiration of a state law giving accusers a two-year window to sue over alleged child abuse occurring long ago.

Kaplan called that window, which was extended by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, “a reasonable measure for remedying injustice to victims” of child sex abuse.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen in New York; additional reporting by Michael Holden in London; editing by Jonathan Oatis)


Mixed Martial Arts-Ngannou out-wrestles Gane to retain heavyweight crown



Francis Ngannou out-grappled Cyril Gane at UFC 270 in Anaheim, California on Saturday night to retain his UFC heavyweight crown before wrestling with questions about his future amid a feud with the promotion over his contract.

Famed for his frightening knockout power, the Senegalese fighter changed tack to deal with the threat of his former sparring partner Gane to win a decision victory before revealing that he had torn knee ligaments in the run-up to the fight.

“If you feel like there’s a chance that you can do it (fight), then you have to do it. I believe in myself, I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my life,” Ngannou told a press conference.

The 35-year-old was homeless for a period after moving to France to become a boxer before coach Fernand Lopez introduced him to the MMA Factory gym in Paris, allowing him to sleep there while moulding him into one of the sport’s most feared fighters.

Despite being the defending champion, Ngannou’s purse for the title defence was $600,000 according to the California State Athletic Commission, a fraction of what he could earn from a boxing match with the likes of Tyson Fury.

That fee does not include any possible share of pay-per-view revenues that Ngannou may have been entitled to, but the fighter feels he deserves more.

“It’s not simply money. Obviously, money is a part of it but it’s also the terms of the contract, I don’t agree with it, I don’t feel like it’s fair, I don’t feel like I’m free, I don’t feel like I have been treated good,” Ngannou told reporters.

UFC president Dana White did not attend the post-fight press conference.

In the co-main event, Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo scored a unanimous decision victory over Brandon Moreno to win back the flyweight belt that he lost to the Mexican the last time the two met in June 2021.


(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Britain’s MI5 spy service warns lawmakers over Chinese agent of influence



Britain’s domestic spy service MI5 has warned lawmakers that the Chinese Communist Party has been employing a woman to exert improper influence over members of parliament.

MI5 sent out an alert and picture of the woman named Christine Lee on Thursday alleging she was “involved in political interference activities” in the United Kingdom on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, who circulated MI5’s alert to lawmakers, said MI5 had found that Lee “has facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China“.

Hoyle said Lee had been involved with the now disbanded all-party parliamentary group, Chinese in Britain.

Britain’s interior minister Priti Patel told reporters that Lee’s behaviour was currently below the criminal threshold to prosecute her, but she said that by putting the alert out the government was able to warn lawmakers about Lee’s attempts to improperly influence them.

Patel said it was “deeply concerning” that an individual working on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party had targeted lawmakers.

Lee is the founder of a law firm, which has offices in London and Birmingham, according to a government official. A woman who answered the phone at the Birmingham office said: “We are not taking any calls now”. A request for comment left at the London office went unanswered.

The law firm lists on its website one of its roles as legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in Britain.

The Chinese embassy in London said in a statement that China does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

“We have no need and never seek to ‘buy influence’ in any foreign parliament,” it said. “We firmly oppose the trick of smearing and intimidation against the Chinese community in the UK.”


Barry Gardiner, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party, said he had received hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations from Lee and said he has been liaising with intelligence services “for a number of years” about her.

“They have always known, and been made fully aware by me, of her engagement with my office and the donations she made to fund researchers in my office in the past,” Gardiner said.

Gardiner employed Lee’s son as a diary manager but he resigned on Thursday.

Iain Duncan Smith, a former leader of Britain’s governing Conservative Party who has been sanctioned by China for highlighting alleged human right abuses in Xinjiang, called for an urgent update from the government on the issue.

He questioned why the woman had not been deported and called for a tightening of the accreditation process for people gaining access to parliament, which he said was too lenient.

Lee is listed under the Christine Lee & Co law firm as a British national in financial filings with Companies House, Britain’s corporate registry.

Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood told parliament of her alleged activity: “This is the sort of grey-zone interference we now anticipate and expect from China.”

Britain’s relations with China have deteriorated in recent years over issues including Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Last year MI5 urged British citizens to treat the threat of spying from Russia, China and Iran with as much vigilance as terrorism.

British spies say China and Russia have each sought to steal commercially sensitive data and intellectual property as well as to interfere in domestic politics and sow misinformation.

The Chinese ambassador to Britain was banned from attending an event in the British parliament last year because Beijing imposed sanctions on lawmakers who highlighted alleged human right abuses in Xinjiang.

China placed the sanctions on nine British politicians in March last year for spreading what it said were “lies and disinformation” over the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the country’s far west.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Christopher Cushing)

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Microsoft board to review sexual harassment, discrimination policies



Microsoft Corp will review the effectiveness of its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies and practices in response to a shareholder proposal that passed at its latest annual meeting, the company’s board said on Thursday.

The review will produce a transparency report with results of any sexual harassment investigations in recent years against the company’s directors and senior executives, including allegations that a board committee probe beginning in 2019 involved Bill Gates, the board said.

Data on the number of cases investigated and their resolution is also expected to be part of the review along with steps that have been taken to hold employees, including executives, accountable for sexual harassment or gender discrimination.

Microsoft said last year it conducted a probe into co-founder Bill Gates’ involvement with an employee almost 20 years ago after the company was told in 2019 that he had tried to start a romantic relationship with the person.

Gates stepped down from the Microsoft board in 2020. In previous public comments, a spokesperson for Gates has denied that his departure was linked to the probe.

A request for comment sent to Bill Gates at his Gates Foundation email address was not immediately returned.

Microsoft‘s board said it has hired outside law firm Arent Fox to assist in the review, at the end of which Arent would make public a version of the report detailing its findings and recommendations.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco and Mehr Bedi in Bangalore; Editing by Richard Chang and Shailesh Kuber)

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