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Sports

Ribery and Benzema questioned by police in under-age sex investigation

media Ribery leaves the pitch after loss to South Africa during 2010 World Cup, … Photo: Reuters

French footballers Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema were questioned by police on Tuesday as part of an investigation into allegations that they slept with an underage prostitute. They were detained at the request of an investigating magistrate and spent time at the headquarters of the Paris vice squad.

Ribery, who plays for Bayern Munich, and Benzema, a Real Madrid striker, could face a maximum prison sentence of three years and a fine of 45,000 euros, if they are charged and convicted of soliciting and paying for sex with a minor.

But they will only be found guilty if it is proven that they knew she was underage. Ribery had previously confirmed to police that he had sex with the young woman, Zahia Dehar, although insisted that he was not aware of her age. Benzema has not made any public comment about the allegations.

Dehar has also said that the players did not know that she was underage and in an interview described her encounters with the players at the Zaman Café on the famous Champs Elysees.

Boulogne-born midfielder Ribery was part of France’s ill-fated World Cup team. Then following their embarrassing early exit he was photographed holidaying with his family in Formentera on 11 July.

The allegations reportedly damaged Ribery’s chances of a lucrative transfer to Spanish football giants Real Madrid. While it is thought the incident put a strain on his marriage to his wife Wahiba, who is of Algerian descent. Ribery converted to Islam in February 2006 before his 25 million euro transfer to Bayern in the summer of 2007.

The investigation hit the press in April, though was delayed in order to enable the players to play in South Africa.

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