A private Caribbean island owned by the paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and allegedly visited by Prince Andrew was protected by a “complex web” of deceit to hide its status as a hideaway for human trafficking, a lawsuit claims.

The attorney-general of the US Virgin Islands wants to dissolve the late US financier’s $577 million estate and hold criminally responsible the corporate network — referred to collectively as the Epstein Enterprise — that he created around it, along with the individuals who were in charge.

The island of Little St James, which the Duke of York is alleged by one of his accusers to have visited at least once with Epstein, was a base for “human trafficking, forced labour, sexual servitude and commercial sexual activity of girls and young women”, the lawsuit claims.

Prince Andrew, 59, has consistently denied the allegations made against him. Buckingham Palace has said that he “deplores the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in, or encourage any such behaviour”.

The US Virgin Islands lawsuit alleges: “Epstein engaged in a pattern and practice of trafficking and sexually abusing young women and female children on this private, secluded island … where Epstein and his associates could avoid detection of their illegal activity from Virgin Islands and federal law enforcement and prevent these young women and under-age girls from leaving freely and escaping the abuse.”

Epstein, 66, was found dead last August in a cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York, after his arrest on federal sex-trafficking charges.

A base for “human trafficking, forced labour, sexual servitude and commercial sexual activity of girls and young women.”

Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who is among scores of young women who have come forward as victims of Epstein, alleged in court evidence in 2015 that she was kept as a sex slave by the financier and his girlfriend, the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, and was instructed to have sex with Prince Andrew three times. The third was on Little St James when she was a teenager, she alleged.

A bird’s-eye view of Epstein’s Little St. James Island. The lawsuit alleges Epstein bought the neighboring Great St. James Island to evade prying eyes.

“Epstein, Andy, approximately eight other young girls and I had sex together. The other girls all seemed and appeared to be under the age of 18 and didn’t really speak English,” she stated in documents filed in a Florida court four years ago.

Flight logs allegedly record Prince Andrew having flown to the US Virgin Islands once on Epstein’s private jet.

In November the duke denied having had any sexual contact with Ms Giuffre, who is now in her thirties, or of knowing her. He told BBC Newsnight: “It didn’t happen. I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened. I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”

“Epstein, Andy, approximately eight other young girls and I had sex together.”

He also denied that he had sex with Ms Giuffre on Little St James. “Absolutely no to all of it,” he said.

One alleged victim of Epstein, Sarah Ransome told last year of how she was lured into his web as a teenage fashion student with promises that he would give her financial help to “achieve her dreams”, but ended up trying to flee Little St James by swimming.

A second girl, a 15-year-old from Sweden, claims that she attempted a similar escape. Both were allegedly caught by Epstein’s search parties and forced to comply with his demands.

The lawsuit brought by the US Virgin Islands government says that Epstein continued to traffick girls as young as 12, as recently as 2018, assisted by a network of business entities he founded to provide private jets, helicopters, boats and cars to transport them.

The lawsuit states that he bought Great St James, a neighbouring island, to make his activities more difficult to detect.

“Monitoring a sex offender with his own private islands and the resources to fly victims in and out on private planes and helicopters presented unique challenges and allowed the Epstein Enterprise to limit scrutiny by the government of the Virgin Islands,” it complains. “As a result of its deplorable and unlawful conduct, the Epstein Enterprise has subjected the Virgin Islands to public portrayals as a hiding place for human trafficking and sex crimes.”

The estate’s co-executors have said that it “is being administered in accordance with the laws of the US Virgin Islands”, The Washington Post reported.