French footballers Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery acquitted of having sex with underage prostitute Zahia Dehar

The Parisian court also dropped the case against Ribery's brother-in-law

French footballers Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery have been acquitted of having sex with an underage prostitute.

The Parisian court also dropped the case against Ribery's brother-in-law.

The France internationals had been accused of paying Zahia Dehar for sex in 2009 before she was 18 years old.

Neither the Bayern Munich winger nor the Real Madrid striker was present in court, allowing their lawyers to represent them. Dehar, now 21, did not attend either.

 

The court did, however, hand out sentences ranging from three months suspended to one year.

An extra year suspended was handed down to five others who were accused of pimping.

Under French law, the age of consent is 15 but paid sex with anyone less than 18-years-old is classified as sex with a minor.

The footballers were first investigated as part of a probe into an alleged prostitution ring, thought to be centred around a Champs-Elysées nightclub.

The resulting allegations, of which they have been found not guilty, caused a public outcry when they were first reported, sparking criticism from then-President Sarkozy.

However, the trial has done little to sway their sporting popularity: Ribery recently came third in the Ballon d'Or vote for Europe's best player.

Ms Dehar, now 21 but 16 at the time of the incident, became famous in Europe after the scandal first broke and has since launched her own luxury lingerie line.

She is also the controversial muse of Channel creative director Karl Lagerfeld.