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Call girl boss jailed in Paris

Axelle Guerin, a friend of MacDonald, gave evidence in the trial.
Axelle Guerin, a friend of MacDonald, gave evidence in the trial.

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PARIS, France -- A British woman has been found guilty in a Paris court of running an international prostitution ring.

Margaret MacDonald, 44, was jailed for four years and fined 150,000 euros ($177,000). Her lawyer said she would appeal the sentence.

MacDonald ran Europe's biggest high-class call girl service and could have spent six years in jail. At the time of her arrest in a hotel near the Champs Elysees, investigators found the names of 430 prostitutes on her laptop.

"She is very disappointed by this ruling. She is a fragile woman," Emmanuel Marsigny, MacDonald's lawyer, was quoted as saying by Reuters. "It's a double hypocrisy. Four years is a heavy sentence," noting that neither the girls who worked for her and clients were implicated in the case.

According to the prosecution, the prostitutes used to charge clients, including stars from show business and tycoons, more than $1,000 an hour.

MacDonald, who spent her time between Paris, Athens and Milan, is said to have taken a cut of 40 percent from the earnings of her call girls.

But MacDonald insisted she ran a legitimate escort service but acknowledged some of the girls may have slept with customers, although she never forced any of the 20 escorts on her books to have sex.

"When people like each other, they want to move beyond the dinner table," she said.

An artist's sketch of MacDonald
An artist's sketch of MacDonald

Police were tipped off about MacDonald's activities by a former colleague Laura Schleich, a German who later set up a rival escort service. Schleich fled France after being arrested in 2001 and is being tried in her absence

MacDonald, who was educated in a convent and studied business at universities in Britain and France, attacked France's ban on escort agencies, saying they provided a quality service between consenting adults.

"When I came to Paris I noticed the pavements were packed with East European girls. I am against women working for men, being abused by men. I think this is something we women should do between ourselves," she said.

"I felt my agency was a more discreet way to get people together. I saw it as providing a service that matches together consenting adults. What two consenting adults decide to do is their business, not mine."

She said she always told her employees that sex could take place on a date, but they did not have to.

"Of course, I know what happens in a hotel room after dinner, whether the girl is paid or not.

"I myself went out with a man or two and after dinner, inevitably at least one person wants it to go further than the end of the table."

MacDonald speaks French, Italian, Spanish and Greek fluently and is proficient in Arabic and Japanese. The prosecution said she operated in several European countries, Israel and the United States.

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