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French soccer stars questioned over prostitution ring

By the CNN Wire Staff
French star Franck Ribery was questioned Tuesday in connection with an alleged underage prostitution ring.
French star Franck Ribery was questioned Tuesday in connection with an alleged underage prostitution ring.
  • Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema questioned by French police
  • Pair quizzed in connection with alleged underage prostitution ring
  • France

Paris, France (CNN) -- Two members of the French national soccer team, Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, were being questioned by French police Tuesday in connection with an alleged underage prostitution ring, French police said.

Ribery, who also plays for German team Bayern Munich, and Benzema, who plays for Spanish side Real Madrid, were being questioned by a police brigade that specializes in surveillance of prostitution.

The case emerged earlier this year after police raided a night club near the Champs Elysees in Paris and detained 18 girls on suspicion of prostitution.

One of the girls, Zahia Dehar, appeared on the cover of Paris Match in April and told the magazine she had sexual relations with several players on the national team, including Ribery, whom she had met at the club. She said in the interview she hadn't told them she was younger than 18 at the time.

In an initial court hearing on the case, Ribery admitted he had sex with Dehar but insisted he did not know she was a minor. Benzema has made no public comment.

Neither of the players spoke to reporters Tuesday. A lawyer for Ribery said outside the police station where the players were questioned that her client had done nothing wrong, and that he would have had to have known the girl's real age in order for it to be an intentional offense.

The questioning adds to a disastrous summer for the French national squad, which crashed out of the World Cup in the first round following two draws and a defeat that left them at the bottom of their group of teams. It was an embarrassing exit for the team that had reached the final of the last World Cup, in 2006.

Forward Nicolas Anelka was sent home from the tournament after an argument with coach Raymond Domenech, causing the rest of the French players to refuse to show up for training.

French team director Jean-Louis Valentin publicly announced his resignation to the media, and team captain Patrice Evra -- who had publicly argued with the team's fitness coach during training -- was omitted from the team's match with South Africa.

Once the team arrived back in France, striker Thierry Henry spoke to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and French lawmakers grilled outgoing coach Domenech about the events.