The Middle East’s largest A-class prostitution ring, led by a Lebanese businessman, recruited and supplied escorts to 'sons of presidents, Arab princes,' and Muammar Qaddafi's son Mutassim, a French judge has ruled.
Elie Nahas, 48, described as “guy Friday” of Qaddafi’s son was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison and fined 50,000 euro ($64,000).
He was one of the eight suspects in the case. Three turned up for the court session on Tuesday, while he and four others were not present.
Nahas used his Beirut-based style modeling agency as a cover for the vice ring, which recruited young women from South America, France and eastern Europe.
The ring recruited and supplied high-class “escorts, models and beauty queens” to service rich men at luxury hotels, grand villas and yachts during Cannes Film Festival in France.
Qaddafi's bithday party
In 2004, Nahas threw a $1.5 million birthday party for the playboy son of Qaddafi. “Several stars and 20 models” were invited, according to French daily 20 Minutes.
American actor Kevin Costner and American glamour model and actress Carmen Electra attended the party which was held in Morocco, according to L'Orient Le Jour, a French language newspaper in Lebanon.
In 2007, Qaddafi’s son “refused two young women presented by Nahas, demanding in return the presence of Tiffany Taylor, an American porn star,” according to French prosecutors alleged in court documents, cited by cited by L’Orient.
The women were paid for by 'businesses … and sometimes the Libyan embassy,' according to Patrick Ardid, the president of the court, The Guardian reported.
The sentence was a “firm message to international pimps,” said prosecutor Damien Martinelli, according to L’Orient Le Jour.
Three who were present in the court were Sabrina Samari, an escort girl from Cannes who has admitted to recruiting women; a Venezuelan man named Felix Farias who worked for a branch of Nahas's agency; and a Lebanese driver, Antoine El Khoury.
Farias, sentenced to three years in jail, caused a scandal in 2007 when he arrived the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris -- as the Cannes festival was taking place -- with eight young women, including one who was a minor.
“The event [arrest] caused panic in Cannes,” said Ardid, the president of the court. “Those really responsible are absent or have fled,” said Franck De Vita, the lawyer for Samari.
Micheal Orsowitz, one of the accused who did not turn up in the court, is reported a Miami resident, who is detained in the UK waiting his extradion.
Patrick Ardid, the president of the court, said the women's services were paid for by 'businesses … and sometimes the Libyan embassy,' reported the Guardian.
The prostitution network was busted in 2007 during the Cannes Film Festival, the world’s most prestigious film festival that attracts famous and aspiring cinema stars and models from around the world.
At the time, Nahas was detained and jailed for 12 months before he was released for the lack of sufficient proof, according to him. In a press interview after he returned to Beirut in 2008, he admitted having invited Farias and the eight escorts to his yacht in Marseille, but stressed that they were returned for baseless reasons. He said the French authorities claimed the women did not have enough money and had no hotel booking and that they came to France to work as illegal immigrants.
“I booked hotel for them, but they were refused entrance; so where is the crime here?” Nahas told Elaph website.
“I spent four days under investigation during which I was put under all forms of psychological torture because the Jewish investigator found an Arab victim upon whom to unleash all his malice and hatred,” Nahas told a press conference in Beirut in 2008. He stressed that he was target because of his success, saying that there hundreds of Yachts in Cannces organizing all organizing parties for celebrities and the wealthy throughout the world, but not any other person was targeted.
Nahas said he worked for Muatassim from 2003 until 2007 and that Qaddafi’s playboy “liked models, “but I am not sure if [Carla Bruni] was among them.”
Media reports suggested that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy might have played a role in the release of Nahas and the closure of the case to avoid an escalation that could expose his wife Bruni.
Four months after Francois Hollande was elected as the new French president, the case was reopened.