Britain’s Prince Andrew says is stepping down from public duties for the foreseeable future after being engulfed in a sex scandal involving convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, denies an allegation that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl procured for him by his friend Epstein, the financier who killed himself in a US prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

The scandal has escalated since Andrew’s rambling explanations in a disastrous TV interview aired on Saturday left many viewers incredulous, and his apparent lack of compassion for Epstein’s victims drew widespread condemnation.

Firms such as telecoms giant BT and bank Barclays and at least three Australian universities are among those who have distanced themselves from Andrew following the BBC interview.

In a statement issued by Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, Andrew said it had become clear to him in recent days that his association with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has become a “major distraction” to the royal family’s work.

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The prince said his mother Queen Elizabeth had given him permission to step back from royal duties.

“Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission,” he said.

He said he regretted his association with the former US businessman and that he “deeply sympathises” with his victims.

“Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required,” he said.

Epstein was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, robbing his alleged victims of a chance for their day in court. His death on Aug. 10 in a New York prison has been ruled a suicide by the city’s medical examiner.

Andrew said Epstein’s suicide left many unanswered questions.

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AAP.