Prostitution probe deals blow to French football
Stars quizzed over sex ring in Paris nightclub
Published 20/04/2010 | 05:00
THE furore over Thierry Henry and "that handball incident" -- which put paid to Ireland's World Cup dream -- has barely calmed down, when a sex scandal threatens to engulf French football.
Two of the team's leading players have been questioned about underage prostitutes.
Franck Ribery (27) and Sidney Govou (30) we re-summoned before an examining judge following allegations that a nightclub on Paris's Champs-Elysees employed prostitutes, some under the age of 18.
Two star players of "Les Bleus" were questioned as "witnesses" and are not suspected of any illegal acts.
However, a judicial official said one regular at the club had admitted having sexual relations with a Moroccan-born prostitute, but denied knowing she was under 18.
The prosecution service official, who declined to be named according to regular French practice, said: "It is up to the judge, Andre Dando, to decide whether or not to bring charges against him."
Soliciting sex with an under-age minor in France carries a three-year jail term and a fine of €45,000. Two other French internationals -- one playing for a Spanish side, the other for a southern French team -- are also due to be interviewed by police.
A man accused of pimping activities and referred to as "Abou" was arrested last week. The head of the Cafe Zaman nightclub in France -- where privacy laws shield footballers from kiss-and-tell press coverage -- and two other "intermediaries" were also arrested. A judicial source said a football agent was also implicated.
Ribery, a midfielder, is considered France's top player. He joined the German club Bayern Munich for more than £25m in 2007, and has been linked with a move to Chelsea. He converted to Islam to marry his French-Algerian wife, Wahiba. The couple have two daughters. Govou, a winger for Lyon football club, is single but has a five-year-old daughter. Their connection with the sex scandal could not have come at a worse time, two months before the World Cup finals.
Sophie Bottai, Ribery's lawyer, said her client was called as a witness "to explain his relations with an acquaintance close to the escort girl organiser" but had no other part in this "private" affair.
Thierry Braillard, counsel for Govou, who also denies any wrongdoing, said: "My client would like to affirm he has no link whatsoever with any pimp network. Sidney Govou has notably never set foot in the notorious Cafe Zaman in Paris." (© Daily Telegraph, London)