After a two-year investigation by French prosecutors, high-profile footballers, Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, have been charged with paying for sex with a teenage call girl.
Ribery- German Bundesliga Player of the Season for Treble winners Bayern Munich- and Benzema- striker for Spanish giants Real Madrid- will now be tried in a court in a case expected to last until the end of the month.
Neither player is expected in court to defend the charge made by Zahia Dehar, now 21-years-old, that they had paid to have sex with her when she was underage in 2008, and at Ribery’s birthday party in 2009.
Ribery does not deny the accusation, but claims that Dehar had misled him by telling him she was 18-years-old at the time, or over the legal age of consent in France.
The allegations first emerged ahead of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, and added fuel to the already combustible environment in the French team camp, to ultimately disastrous effect.
If found guilty, the players could be sentenced to up to three years in jail and incur fines of €45,000.
Ribery’s lawyer explained his client's defence to Reuters thus: "In French law, it's not forbidden to make love to a woman and even to pay her for it, what is forbidden is to do it with a minor.
"When a woman travels around Europe by plane, can you imagine thinking for one second that she's a minor?"
Benzema meanwhile, denies the charge against him outright, and his lawyer would not release a comment to the media ahead of the trial.
In the years since the story broke, Dehar has experienced a rags-to-riches fairy tale.
No longer a sex worker, she became the muse of fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld, and now has her own brand of designer lingerie.