Prince Andrew is believed to be using the money from the sale of his favorite ski chalet to fund an out-of-court settlement of his sexual assault case.
It was reported last month that the under-gunned prince had found a buyer for the luxurious Verbier retreat in a deal worth around £18m.
Locals at the prestigious Swiss resort speculate that he had to get rid of the cabin in order to settle his case with Virginia Giuffre and avoid a court appearance.
A Buckingham Palace source suggested Andrew’s payout could have cost him around £7.5m, though the actual figure is shrouded in secrecy.
One of the closest neighbors in the Alpine village said: “Andrew and his family really liked their chalet and would never have wanted to sell it if they hadn’t forced him.”
“He obviously wanted to avoid trial with all the shame that would fall on him and members of the royal family, no matter how he proclaimed his innocence.
“It appears the sale was his only option to make sure he had the cash to pay his legal bills and fund the settlement.”
Prince Andrew bought the seven-bedroom Helora Chalet (pictured) in the luxury Swiss resort of Verbier with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson in 2014 for £16.6m.
The seven-bedroom chalet is located in one of the most expensive areas of the main Swiss resort, which is filled with celebrities and multimillionaires during the ski season.
The hillside hideout is said to have a master bedroom draped in furs, a living room filled with antiques, a sauna, a shoe storage room, an indoor pool, a writing room, a £5,600 ball chair and a terrace with stunning views.
Andrew and his ex-wife, the Duchess of York, are said to have bought a cabin called Chalet Helora from their French socialite Isabelle de Rouvre for £18 million in 2014.
Ms De Rouvre, 74, agreed to receive some cash immediately and in installments until December 2019 to make the sale go through.
But she claimed the Yorkes failed to make the final £5 million installment, forcing her to take legal action against them in Swiss courts two years ago.
Interest on the outstanding amount reportedly meant that she was owed £6.6 million.
Ms De Rouvre confirmed today that she agreed to receive a smaller amount from Andrew to settle the case last November, allowing him to put the chalet up for sale.
She told MailOnline: “I won’t say how much he paid me because it’s personal. He paid me and I said, “OK, now it’s done.” We had an agreement. I won’t say how much, because it’s personal.
Confirming that he had not paid the full amount, she said, “No, but that’s life.” This was several months ago. I really don’t know what happened now. In fact I do not care.
The sale of the chalet to a mystery shopper is said to be in an advanced stage, but is still not believed to have taken place, meaning Andrew has yet to receive the money.
Andrew pictured in 2001 with ex-wife Sarah Ferguson and children in Verbier, Switzerland
The delay in completing the sale is thought to explain why he has so far only negotiated a “settlement in principle” with Virginia Giuffre, who was known as Virginia Roberts when she allegedly had sex with Andrew.
A Buckingham Palace source has suggested that Andrew was “under pressure” from Prince Charles and other family members to settle the lawsuit against him to avoid a scandal blighting the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations this year.
It is believed that he wanted to make a deal as soon as possible so that the deal did not overshadow the service of thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip in Westminster Abbey on March 29.
A source said: “I’m sure Charles got fed up and blew the gasket.
Charles would have told him that he needed to sort this out as soon as possible and before the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations began.
“Charles didn’t want it hanging over the royal family this year.”
Andrew reportedly rented Chalet Helora for £22,000 a week in 2013 for his annual family skiing holiday to celebrate his 53rd birthday, almost two years before he bought it.
Royal family sources described the purchase at the time as a “family investment”, saying it was a stash for their daughters Eugenie and Beatrice.
Land Registry documents in Switzerland simply named Andrew York and Sarah Ferguson as the owners, and it was confirmed that the home was purchased with a mortgage.
Questions were raised at the time about how the couple could afford it, especially as the Duchess had just managed to pay off the £5 million in debt she had accumulated.
Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts stand with Ghislaine Maxwell in the background in London on March 13, 2001.
Andrew is said to earn only around £270,000 a year, including a £249,000 annual stipend from the Queen, plus £20,000 from his naval pension.
He did sell his former family home Sunninghill Park in Berkshire for £15m in 2007 after it had languished on the market for five years.
The house, named South York, which was a gift from the Queen, was sold for about £3 million over the asking price to Kazakh tycoon Timor Kulibayev, the Kazakh president’s son-in-law.
Andrew reportedly spent around £7.5million to improve the 30-room Royal Cottage in Windsor Great Park, where he and his ex-wife continue to live together despite their divorce.
He and the Duchess of York were staying at the Helora Chalet in January 2015 when allegations first surfaced that he had sex with a teenage girl, Virginia Giuffre, while she was being held as a “sex slave” by his billionaire friend Jeffrey Epstein.
She said in court documents that Epstein “forced” her to have sex with Andrew three times, including once in London when she was 17 and a minor under US law.
Andrew has consistently denied her claims, and his agreement with her contains no admission of guilt.
In August 2015, it was revealed that the Duchess of York used Chalet Helora as her primary residence, although she has spent most of her time at the Royal Lodge in recent years.
The Duchess and daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, as well as their husbands Jack Brooksbank and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, enjoyed the New Year holidays at the chalet during a ski trip last month.
Andrew stayed at home in Windsor so that he wouldn’t be seen playing on the Alpine slopes while the sexual assault case hung over him.