Franck Ribery held over underage prostitution ring

Jul 20, 2010
Bill Mann

French international and colleague Benzema called for questioning in Paris

Franck Ribery, the French football international who has admitted having sex with a 17-year-old prostitute, is being detained and questioned by police investigating an underage prostitution ring. He could be held for up to 48 hours while police decide if he should face charges.

Ribery's international team-mate Karim Benzema (above left), a transfer target for Manchester United, was also summoned to the Paris vice squad headquarters this morning. Ribery (above right) made his way, grim-faced, past banks of photographers and reporters to enter the headquarters of France's BRP vice squad on the Ile de la Cite this morning.

The players were summoned at the request of a magistrate investigating claims that a nightclub on the Champs Elysee in central Paris provided its clients with access to underage call girls, a source in the judicial services told the AFP news agency.

It's the latest chapter of a scandal which has gripped France and, as the Parisienne newspaper puts it today "bousculé la planète foot" (shaken up planet football). Ribery is not just another player: one of international football's most gifted wingers, he is generally considered France's greatest footballer.

In April, it emerged that one of the women working at the club, Zahia Dehar, had had paid sex with the two men. She told the press she was just 17 at the time: in France the age of consent is 15, but prostitution is illegal for women younger than 18.

Ribery has admitted sleeping with Dehar, but says he did not know her age at the time. She seemed to support this claim when she said she had not told him her age at any stage.

Police raided the Zaman Café nightclub earlier this year and arrested 18 women on suspicion of prostitution. Dehar was not among their number.

As The First Post reported at the time, Ribery's wife, the French-Algerian Wahiba (for whom he converted to Islam when they married in 2002) vowed to stand by her man, despite the humiliation. She said: "It hurt my family, above all those close to me."

Similarly forgiving were various French public figures who fulfilled their reputation for a laissez-faire attitude to sexual misdemeanours. Alain Souchon, one of the country's most famous entertainers, said: "Every man in his life is going to visit a whore one time, that's how it is."

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