Model agency's inquiry into sex claims

ELITE, the model agency, yesterday announced an investigation into allegations that girls as young as 13 were pressured to have sex and take drugs.

Several senior executiveshave been suspended after being filmed by an undercover BBC crew. They will be allowed to view the film and explain their actions before being disciplined, said Elite chairman John Casablancas. He offered an "unreserved apology" for the behaviour of his staff in the programme on what he called "some of the darkest aspects" of modelling.

"Four members of the Elite organisation appear in this programme. The language and situations in which these individuals allowed themselves to be involved are shocking, unacceptable and highly inappropriate," he said.

"Elite wishes to apologise unreservedly to the models, parents and employees... and would like to reaffirm its commitment to a full investigation and an immediate correction of the flaws found to exist in the supervision and chaperoning systems of the agency."

The BBC1 programme, part of the MacIntyre Undercover series, was broadcast on Tuesday night. The film featured a string of astonishing "confessions" from fashion insiders, including staff from the agency.

Gerald Marie, Elite's European president, was filmed propositioning investigator Lisa Brinkworth when she posed as a model, she said. "I give you one million lire (pounds 300) if you sleep with me," he is said to have told her.

Mr Marie told investigator Donal MacIntyre, posing as a photographer, that he planned to seduce finalists from the Elite Model Look contest, whose average age is 15, the BBC said. The programme also included evidence that men employed to escort young models around were forcing drugs on them without the knowledge of the agencies involved.