Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SEX TRIAL SENSATION; English Ex-Convent Girl 'Ran World Vice Ring with 453 Prostitutes and 30 Gigolos'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SEX TRIAL SENSATION; English Ex-Convent Girl 'Ran World Vice Ring with 453 Prostitutes and 30 Gigolos'

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN SPARKS

By Ian Sparks in Paris

AN ENGLISH woman appeared in a Paris court today accused of running a multi-million pound prostitute ring servicing hundreds of VIP and celebrity clients.

Convent-educated Margaret MacDonald will claim she was running a legitimate escort agency and her girls were simply providing platonic solace, at up to [pounds sterling]800 an hour, for lonely businessmen.

But French police say she controlled 453 prostitutes and 30 gigolos across the world using a laptop computer and a bank of mobile phones. One client is said to be a major British TV star whose name may be read out in court.

MacDonald, who stood in the dock in a baggy, white cotton smock and waist-length hair, is charged with "procuring for the purposes of prostitution" and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

She denies the charges.

French police describe MacDonald, 43, as "fascinating, sophisticated and ruthless".

The investigating judge told the court: "She ran almost 500 prostitutes via internet and newspaper advertisements. Her girls charged from [pounds sterling]300 to [pounds sterling]800 an hour and gave 40 per cent of the money back to MacDonald, who used the pseudonym Nicky."

The court was told that MacDonald lived a jet-set life of five-star hotel suites and chauffeur-driven cars as she travelled the world running her empire.

MacDonald told the court she made each of the 453 girls working for her sign a contract saying they would not have "physical relations" with men she put them in contact with.

She said: "As far as I was concerned they were just providing company for lonely men. I was not aware any sex was taking place."

Police surveillance found MacDonald never spoke about sex or money on the phone, but merely organised liaisons between girls and clients, the court heard.

MacDonald claimed that she used to run her escort agency with a German former prostitute called Laura Schleich, 24, as a legitimate hostess business.

But following disagreements between them, Schleich set up her own rival agency which offered sex to clients while her girls only offered company.

When Schleich was arrested in Paris in November 2001 she told police the opposite, claiming Mac-Donald's girls offered sex and hers offered company. …

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