French prison governor 'fell in love' with sex-bait inmate

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The Independent Online

The governor of a French prison faces a possible jail sentence after being accused of having a love affair with a young woman jailed for acting as "sexual bait" in a horrific kidnap, torture and murder case.

Florent Goncalves, 41, has been suspended as head of the Versailles women's prison, west of Paris, after allegedly "falling in love" with the 23-year-old female inmate of Iranian origin. The woman, Emma Arbabzadeh, who is sometimes referred to as "Yalda", is serving a nine-year sentence for her part in the kidnap and murder of a young Jewish man in 2006 by a gang known as the "gang of barbarians".

Mr Goncalves, and a more junior 36-year-old prison guard, are reported to have admitted having sex with the young woman in return for money, gifts and special treatment.

He has been formally accused of "the smuggling of money and forbidden objects and having illicit dealings with a prisoner". If convicted, he could be jailed for up to three years.

The affair came to light after other prisoners protested that the young woman was receiving favourable treatment, including soft jobs and the use of a mobile telephone.

Arbabzadeh came to France with her mother as an 11-year-old child to escape a forced marriage in Iran. She later claimed to have been the victim of a gang rape in France before retracting, apparently under pressure from her family.

In 2009, she was convicted of acting as the sexual bait to attract Ilan Halimi, 23, a young Jewish telephone salesman, into the hands of a gang of kidnappers in 2006.

The so-called gang of barbarians held Mr Halimi for three weeks, and demanded large sums of money for his release. He was eventually found dying, handcuffed to a tree, naked and badly burnt. The gang's leader, Youssouf Fofana, who allegedly targeted Jews because he was convinced that they were all rich, was jailed for a minimum of 22 years.

Elsa Vigoureux, a French journalist who wrote a book on the crime L'affaire du gang des barbares, told the French news agency, Agence France-Presse, yesterday that Arbabzadeh was "in a permanent state of war with men and believed that she could only win through using her body".

The gang of barbarians case drew attention to a rise in anti-Semitic feeling in the multi-racial suburbs, or banlieues, surrounding French cities. Fofana, insisted however, that he targeted Mr Halimi as a kidnap victim only because he was convinced that all Jews were wealthy and "stuck together".