French sex tourist jailed 16 years over abuse of dozens of young boys

VERSAILLES, France (AFP) - A French sex tourist was sentenced on Wednesday to 16 years in prison for raping or abusing dozens of young boys in Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Egypt over a decade.

Thierry Darantiere, 52, who confessed to the crimes, was also ordered to accept treatment for the next 10 years.

Taking the stand on Tuesday, Darantiere's voice shook as he expressed "regrets which seem futile... to these young people I will never see again".

The sheer number of the minors he allegedly abused between 2002 and 2011 - 66 - made the trial the biggest in France for sex crimes committed abroad.

Darantiere testified, however, that the number may have been much higher.

Despite the magnitude of the sexual tourism industry, such hearings are rare, given a lack of evidence and plaintiffs.

Darantiere, a former director of a Catholic retirement home, was charged with rape and sexual assault, corrupting minors, using under-age prostitutes, and recording and disseminating child pornography.

It was the FBI that first tracked him down, finding dozens of images on the Internet of him abusing young boys in 2011.

French police arrested him the following year.

Investigators found thousands of photos and hundreds of videos on hard disks seized from Darantiere's home.

They counted 41 victims in Tunisia, 19 in Sri Lanka and six in Egypt.

The boys ranged in age from six to 17.

Darantiere told investigators he was "bisexual with paedophile tendencies", a "loner" and a "sick person who needs help".

But he denied forcing the boys to commit sexual acts, saying he paid them with money and gifts.

Darantiere told of his upbringing in a devout Catholic family in which homosexuality was unthinkable.

He said he had "never" had intimate relations with an adult in France but invented a wife and child as he took a job as the head of a retirement home in Le Pecq, west of Paris.

A psychiatric expert said the defendant did not accept that he was a paedophile.

"Overseas there are no limits, while France is the place for a conformist existence."

To Darantiere, "they aren't victims, they're partners", the expert said.

Darantiere was given a one-year suspended prison sentence in Austria in 2000 for sexually abusing children in 1994.