Last week, a court in France handed down suspended jail sentences to three Belgians. Their crimes? Invading the privacy of Daniel Ducruet, 34, ex-husband of Princess Stephanie of Monaco and father of her two children.
But these Belgians didn't just invade Ducruet's privacy. They lured him to a villa in the South of France and photographed him having poolside sex with someone other than Princess Stephanie. Photos and video footage of the tryst were widely reproduced in the Spanish and Italian press, and led directly to the royal couple's divorce. And wouldn't you know it, Ducruet has been banished from Monaco by Prince Rainier, Stephanie's dad.
This sordid and greasy tale began when Ducruet took a job as bodyguard to the princess, then ascended the ladder by marrying her and fathering a son, now 7, and a daughter, 6. Then one day he went to a motorcar race and met a stripper named Muriel "Fili" Mol-Houteman, a former Miss Topless Belgium. Obviously, she made an impression.
An acquaintance of Mol-Houteman's, Brussels photographer Stephane de Lisiecki, was apparently the mastermind of the following scheme: In 1996, de Lisiecki arranged for Mol-Houteman to meet Ducruet at a villa at Villefranche. Stationed in the bushes nearby, armed with loaded cameras and wearing military camouflage clothing, was a young photo assistant named Yves Hoogewys. Ducruet's defenses crumbled under the wiles of the former Miss Topless and he eventually succumbed to her ministrations at the villa's outdoor swimming pool.
After pictures of Ducruet cavorting with the Belgian stripper were sent around the world, the princess began divorce proceedings. The marriage was no more. Ducruet took the photographers and the stripper to court, charging them with breaching French privacy laws. In the courtroom, a prosecutor described the scenario as a "trap, with purely financial motives." Ducruet's lawyer informed de Lisiecki: "You are not a photographer, not even a paparazzo. You are a pornographer and a pimp who hired the services of a pro." De Lisiecki's attorney insisted there had been no plot, merely an "incredible opportunity" for his client.
Although prosecutors asked for prison terms, the judges passed down six-month suspended sentences for the photographers and Miss Topless Belgium. De Lisiecki was also fined 50,000 francs (about $7,000).
So why did Ducruet do what he did? Well, he certainly wasn't going to tell the truth. At an earlier hearing, Ducruet told the court that he succumbed to the dancer's advances because she had served him alcohol laced with what he believed was the drug ecstasy. But at the final hearing, Ducruet came up with another, more altruistic, line of reasoning to explain why he would risk everything for the chance to have sex with Miss Topless Belgium. Decruet told the court that he met with Mol-Houteman at the villa because he believed that she was lonely and needed advice on driving in the area.