Belgian authorities have launched a prostitution probe and impounded posters for a dating website that offered to hook up young female students with rich older men, officials said Wednesday.
The publicity drive by Norwegian-based website RichMeetBeautiful has triggered a storm of controversy in Belgium as lorries with huge billboards paraded past universities in Brussels.
Police in the Belgian capital intercepted one of the trucks late on Tuesday and impounded the poster, prosecutors said, adding that they had begun an investigation into suspected "public incitement of an adult to debauchery".
"An inquiry has been opened to determine whether the 'RichMeetBeautiful' campaign amounts to a criminal offence," the Brussels prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The billboards, which carried a picture of a woman's chest barely hidden by a red bra and the slogan "Hey students! Improve your lifestyle, go out with a 'sugar daddy'," sparked a shower of complaints to police from Belgian politicians and a student union.
Brussels regional authorities on Wednesday issued an order banning the campaign, which was launched several weeks ago, from the city and surrounding area.
The Union of Students of the French community condemned the campaign as "completely immoral", saying hard-up students needed scholarships, not "sugar daddies" -- wealthy middle-aged men paying for their company.
Site boss Sigurd Vedal told AFP on Monday that criticisms likening the site to prostitution were unfair.
"It's a classic misunderstanding," Vedal said. "We are like a normal dating site, but financial is part of the checklist. We have very clear terms of agreement, 'sugar babies' must be 18 of age and prostitution is not allowed."
Out of 150,000 young women who have signed up in Scandinavian countries and Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, around 21,000 are Belgian, according to the site, which says Belgium is one of its commercial priorities....