French duo accused of having sex with Zahia Dehar when she was 17
- Maximum sentence for sleeping with underage prostitute in France is three years in jail
- Both players deny the charges
French football stars Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema are facing up to three years in prison for allegedly sleeping with an underage prostitute.
The attacking duo who earn some £17million a year between them – deny knowingly paying for sex with Zahia Dehar when she was under 18.
Their Paris criminal trial, which opened on Monday, will shine a light on the high-living lifestyles of celebrity footballers and their lovers.
High fashion: Ms Daher recently attended a Versace fashion show
Ms Dehar, now 21, has become one of the most famous names in France since the players were first arrested, building up a career as a fashion icon, reality TV star, and the muse of designer Karl Lagerfeld.
Neither she, nor the players, are expected to attend court, instead leaving the process to their lawyers.
Paying for sex is legal in France, but only if all parties involved are more than 18 years old. The maximum sentence for sleeping with an underage prostitute is three years in prison, and a fine of around £40,000.
Model: Zahia Dehar, now 21, contends Ribery flew her to Munich as a birthday present to himself in 2009 when she was under 18
Ms Dehar was 17 when she was paid in 2009 to fly from Paris to Munich, where Ribery plays for European Champions Bayern Munich, to sleep with him as a 26th ‘birthday treat’.
Carlo Alberto Brusa, Ribery’s lawyer, said his client did not know how old Ms Dehar was at the time.
Mr Brusa said today: ‘Mr Ribery is a mature person who has faced difficult times. He is as concerned as anyone who finds himself in the criminal justice system, but at the same time calm.’
New life: Dehar has become one of the most famous names in France since the players were first arrested
Mr Dehar is known to have lied about her age to all the footballers she slept with, including Real Madrid forward Benzema, said Mr Brusa.
Ms Dehar has withdrawn as a civil plaintiff in the case, so will not be seeking damages. ‘She is not asking for anything,’ said Daniel Vaconsin, her barrister.
The trial is going ahead after France’s highest court ruled that only those aware that a prostitute was underage can be found guilty of breaking the law.
Brazil bound: Benzema (left) and Ribery (right) are hoping to be part of the France for the World Cup
Ribery’s brother-in-law is also charged with soliciting a minor for sex, and five other accused face maximum prison terms of 10 years on charges relating to the case, including ‘aggravated pimping’.
Benzema, who is accused of paying for sex with Ms Dehar in a Paris hotel when she was 16, denies that any encounter took place.
Ms Dehar has already testified that she had sex with both players for money after lying to them about her age