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Bayern star Ribery charged over underage sex claims

Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery and his national teammate Karim Benzema have been charged over claims they had sex with an underage prostitute. A conviction would hinge on proving they knew the girl's age.

Franck Ribery

Ribery was first questioned about the claims in April

A French judge has issued preliminary charges against French international players Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema for soliciting an underage prostitute.

Bayern Munich star Ribery and Benzema, who plays for Real Madrid, were taken into custody on Tuesday for questioning about statements by a self-styled professional escort Zahia D.

She told police that both players had paid for sex with her when she was a minor but added that they had not known that she was a minor at the time.

The pair were interviewed as part of an investigation into a suspected network of prostitutes operating from a nightclub on Paris's prestigious Champs Elysees, a judicial official told the AP news agency.

In France, a prostitute under the age of 18 is deemed to be underage, and paid sex with a minor can be punished by up to three years in prison and a 45,000 euro ($58,390) fine.

'No idea of girl's age'

Both players deny any wrongdoing. A lawyer for Ribery, Sophie Bottai, said he had no idea the girl was underage, making a conviction impossible.

The girl "would have had to look like a minor and that was not the case," said Bottai. In addition, she said, the investigation would have to show that she "had informed him that she was underage, which was not the case."

Ribery had already been questioned in April about the affair, which cast a shadow over the French team's preparation for the World Cup. The former world champions were eliminated from the tournament during the group stage after a series of off-the-pitch problems.

Author: Richard Connor (AP/AFP/Reuters/dpa)

Editor: Susan Houlton

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