Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS BRIEFING -

A French judge is­sued pre­lim­i­nary charges Tues­day against soc­cer stars

Franck Ribery and Karim Ben­zema for so­lic­it­ing an un­der­age pros­ti­tute — the lat­est set­back for a na­tional team that re­turned from the World Cup in dis­grace and dis­ar­ray.

Ribery and Ben­zema were ques­tioned Tues­day as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a sus­pected net­work of pros­ti­tutes that op­er­ated out of a night­club on Paris’ glitzy Champs-El­y­sees, a ju­di­cial of­fi­cial told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The scan­dal, which broke be­fore the World Cup be­gan June 11 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 chil­dren.

Real Madrid striker Ben­zema and Bay­ern Mu­nich for­ward Ribery could face up to three years in prison if con­victed of pay­ing to have sex with a mi­nor. They are among the most fa­mous soc­cer play­ers in France.

Both have de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

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