Top French footballer cited in under-age prostitution probe
A French international footballer is being investigated in connection with the soliciting of a minor for prostitution, judicial sources told AFP on Wednesday.
The player's name appeared in the mobile phone of an under-age girl who has been arrested on shop-lifting charges and whose profile was sufficient to justify the opening of a preliminary investigation, the sources said.
They did not immediately reveal the player's identity, which is subject to rules on judicial secrecy but is likely to emerge if the probe goes beyond a preliminary stage.
Two French internationals, Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, are currently awaiting trial for allegedly paying a 16-year-old prostitute for sex in 2008 and 2009.
The woman involved, Zahia Dehar, has testified that the players were unaware that she was not 18. Although the age of consent is 15 in France, paying for sex with anyone under 18 is a separate, and more serious, offence than soliciting adult prostitutes.
Bayern Munich winger Ribery and Real Madrid forward Benzema face up to three years in prison and a maximum 45,000-euro (£35,000, $55,000) fine if convicted. Their trial, in which six other people will also be in the dock, has been scheduled for June.
News of the investigation into Ribery and Benzema broke just before the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign, during which unprecedented bickering within the French squad resulted in a player strike, Nicolas Anelka being sent home and one of the favourites being eliminated at the group stage.
The badly tarnished image of "Les Bleus" has yet to fully recover from what has become known as the Knysna fiasco after the name of the squad's South African base.
Ribery, said to be one of the ringleaders of a rebellion against coach Raymond Domenech, was given a three-match ban after the tournament but has since been welcomed back into the fold.