Sex scandal tarnishes French football

A French judge issued preliminary
charges against football stars Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema for soliciting
an underage prostitute.

Ribery and Benzema were questioned as part of
a probe into a suspected network of prostitutes that operated out of a
nightclub on Paris’ glitzy Champs-Elysees.

The scandal, which broke before the
World Cup and has been front-page news in France, includes allegations by a
self-described escort girl who says Ribery flew her to visit him as a birthday
present to himself when she was still under 18. Ribery is married with two

Real Madrid striker Benzema and
Bayern Munich forward Ribery could face up to three years in prison and a $60,000
fine if found guilty of paying to have sex with a minor.

Zahia Dehar, now 18, has told
French media that several football players on France’s national team paid to
have sex with her when she was a minor. She has said the players were not aware
she was underage at the time.

Ribery and Benzema were released
after French investigating magistrate Andre Dando handed them preliminary
charges, which give officials time to pursue a probe before deciding whether to
send suspects for trial or drop the case.

Officials have been trying to
establish whether or not, when he asked her to fly to Bavaria for his birthday
celebrations in April, Ribéry bought Dehar’s plane ticket. If he did, they
argue, he would have known her date of birth.

Prostitution is legal in France,
but prostitutes must be over 18 years old, and clients are liable if they are

Ribery has admitted to having sex
with Dehar but insists he was unaware of her age.