A hearing opens in a French court Monday in a case involving a high-end prostitution ring that was active during the Cannes Film Festival and possibly had ties to a son of slain Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
Seven men and a woman will go on trial in the southern French port city of Marseille, though the chief figures in the case -- a group of Lebanese businessmen -- are on the run.
An investigation launched in 2007 by an anti-trafficking agency found ties between one of the businessmen and one of Kadhafi's sons, Mutassim, who was killed with his father on October 20 last year. Investigators never questioned the son.
"Those really responsible are absent or have fled," said Franck De Vita, the lawyer for an alleged escort girl charged in the case.
"You might wonder, at the very least, why Mr Kadhafi was not interrogated when you know about his links with Elie Nahas", the lawyer added, referring to a Lebanese who claimed to run a modelling agency employing young women recruited in South America, France and eastern Europe.
According to Patrick Rizzo, lawyer for an anti-procuring charity that is a civil party to the trial, it was "the political context" in 2007 and 2008 that hampered the legal investigation.
"Colonel Kadhafi was received at the Elysee (French presidential palace) at the time, he was France's good friend," Rizzo said.
"All this context did not favour international investigations."
The inquiry established that young women of various nationalities including models, beauty queens and escort girls, were recruited, especially during the Cannes film festival for clients from the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait ready to pay thousands of dollars for their services.