Wealthy Parisian couples looking forward to an elegant, expensive and naughty New Year's Eve -- of caviar, lobster and wife-swapping -- may have to think again.
Les Chandelles, the most exclusive of the wife-swapping clubs in the French capital, is under investigation for allegedly allowing prostitutes to operate on its premises.
The city's police chief must now decide in the next 24 hours whether to permit the club's New Year's Eve party to go ahead.
Les Chandelles ('The Candles') has a reputation as the most snobbish "boite echangiste", or wife-swapping club, in Paris.
To be admitted to the glittering premises between L'Opera and the Louvre, you have to be wealthy, famous or good-looking -- preferably all three.
Clients are reported to have included members of the political and media elite.
The restaurant and bar have the elegant look and quality of a five-star hotel. Guests who wish to do so can move on to the "libertine" activities -- partner-swapping or group sex -- in the lounge and private rooms.
However, it is now alleged that some of the female "guests" are not what they appear. An investigation by the vice squad has concluded that the club is a haunt of high-class prostitutes.
Three people, including the former professional footballer Alim Ben Mabrouk (51), have been placed under formal investigation, accused of "highly organised pimping".
A police report recommends that the club should be shut down, at least temporarily.
Its proprietor, 44-year-old Valerie Hervo, who is known as "Madame Valerie", has been questioned by police but she is not among those who face charges at this stage. "I have nothing to say, only that my establishment has nothing to do with this affair," she told the French magazine 'VSD'.
Wife-swapping clubs have become an accepted part of Parisian nightlife in the last 30 years. More than 50 establishments are listed in entertainment guides.
Although single men and women are admitted to some events, the club is mostly reserved for couples. (© Independent News Service)