French football stars Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema have been acquitted Thursday by a Paris court oncharges of having sex with an underage prostitute. The two friends were accused of sleeping with a prostitue, Zahia Dehar, when she was 18.
The French judge ruled that there was not enough proof that Ribéry, a winger with Bayern Munich, and Benzema, a Real Madrid forward, were aware that the escort-girl was a minor at the time of the incidents. The case has been hanging over the players since July 2010, when a French judge issued preliminary charges against them. Both players had denied the charges. They faced up to three years in prison if found guilty.
Ribéry, 30, has admitted to having sex with Dehar, but claimed he did not pay and that he did not know she was a prostitute or a minor. The incident was alleged to have taken place in 2009 when she was paid to fly from Paris to Munich, where Ribery plays for European Champions to sleep with him as a 26th ‘birthday treat’. He insisted that the money he gave her was strictly for food and travel.
Benzema, 26, has denied all the allegations although it was said that he paid Dehar just over £400 to sleep with her after the French Union of Professional Footballers’ awards in May 2008, when she was 16.
Zahia Dehar, now 21, has since become one of the most famous celebrity names in France since the court case began and is even now a muse for fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld. La belle also attended the Versace haute couture fashion show in Paris on Sunday. She has decided not to file a civil lawsuit against the two football pros. However, she is believed to have lied about her age to the two players by saying that she was over the legal age.
Five other men accused in the case were dealt with suspended prison sentences between three months and two years.
Prostitution is legal in France, but prostitutes must be over 18. The age of consent in the country is 15.