British woman held over jet-set vice ring

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A British "businesswoman" arrested in a Parisian hotel last week is suspected of running an international call-girl network with tentacles in at least six countries.

Margaret MacDonald, 43, who speaks eight languages and poses as a jet-setting business executive, is suspected of recruiting women in financial difficulties to provide sexual services for businessmen. Ms MacDonald, who was arrested at the weekend in a hotel in the Avenue Wagram, near the Arc de Triomphe, admits running an escort service but says she was not aware that her employees were being paid to have sex.

French vice squad detectives, who have been tracking Ms MacDonald's movements for months, seized four mobile telephones, five mobile phone data chips and a portable computer, containing the names of 450 alleged call-girls and 30 male prostitutes in several European countries, the United States and Israel.

Police say that they believe the women in the ring charged up to €1,000 (£600) an hour to clients who included top business executives, some of them celebrated names in the worlds of finance or industry. Ms MacDonald, who recruited the women through advertisements in international newspapers, allegedly took a 40 per cent cut.

Although born in Bedfordshire and educated at universities in London, Rheims and Paris, Ms MacDonald is believed to have no permanent home. A former call-girl herself, she moved permanently between quality hotels in France, Britain, Austria, Italy and New York.

She has been placed under formal investigation – one step short of a charge – for "aggravated pimping".