Top Raffarin aide quits over teen sex scandal

23rd April 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 23 (AFP) - A top aide to French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin resigned on Friday after he was charged with soliciting an under-age prostitute, in the latest setback for a government still smarting from its humiliating defeat in regional elections last month.

PARIS, April 23 (AFP) - A top aide to French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin resigned on Friday after he was charged with soliciting an under-age prostitute, in the latest setback for a government still smarting from its humiliating defeat in regional elections last month.

Dominique Ambiel, a former teacher turned television boss who joined Raffarin's staff two years ago, was arrest overnight Monday in western Paris in company of a young woman, reported to be a 17-year-old Romanian prostitute.

"Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has terminated Dominique Ambiel's employment as communications advisor, upon receipt of his resignation," a government statement said.

Ambiel, 49, faces charges of soliciting a minor and insulting a police officer, and could be sentenced to up to three years in jail and fined up to EUR 45,000 (USD 53,000) if found guilty.

Ambiel, who is married with one daughter, has denied the charges, first revealed in the respected French newspaper Le Monde. He is due to appear in court on June 7.

Le Monde said a 17-year-old Romanian was found in Ambiel's car during a routine police patrol in Paris' upscale 17th district, parts of which are known to be nighttime hangouts for prostitutes of both sexes.

He was reported to have verbally abused the arresting officers and is accused of "soliciting, accepting or obtaining, in return for payment, relations of a sexual nature from a minor engaged in prostitution, including casual prostitution."

In a statement to Le Monde, Ambiel was quoted as saying that he had decide to bring forward his intended departure from office "in order to express myself freely on malicious allegations that could result from this incident."

Ambiel challenged the police version of events, saying he was at a traffic light at a crossroads where two prostitutes were quarrelling.

One of the women sought refuge in his car, but Ambiel said he asked her to get out and left her "two minutes later and 300 metres further on, to put her out of danger."

But the prostitute had given a different version to the police, claiming she knew Ambiel and that they had on another occasion both gone to a hotel, where Ambiel had allegedly paid for a room, according to Le Monde.

Ambiel has been charged under a law introduced under the previous Socialist government in 2002 to fight underage prostitution, by cracking down on customers rather than the sex workers themselves.

Raffarin's communications advisor is a television man who headed up one of France's leading production companies, Expand Images, from 1999 to 2002.

A supporter of French former president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, Ambiel taught literature in a Catholic school west of Paris before moving into politics in 1979 as a cabinet advisor on education.

He has since held a number of high-profile posts under various centre-right governments, namely as member of a 1993 committee on the future of public television and, since 2002, as part of the Raffarin government.

Personally humiliated by the Socialist landslide in regional elections last month, Raffarin offered up his resignation, but was instead told to draw up a new ministerial team to lead the country through European elections in June.

The Socialist opposition won 22 of metropolitan France's 24 regions in the March 28 election.

© AFP

                                               Subject: French news

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