British fashion designer John Galliano accused the Jewish lawyer defending him against an anti-Semitism charge of stealing more than 2.5 million pounds, it emerged today.
Mr Galliano, 50, claims the money was illegally withdrawn from his bank account by Stephane Zerbib.
Mr Zerbib, a high-profile member of Paris’s Jewish community, had been due to represent Mr Galliano against allegations that he used racist abuse against three people.
But Mr Galliano has now sacked Mr Zerbib and filed a law suit against him for 'aggravated breach of trust'.
Mr Zerbib, in turn, denies all the embezzlement charges, and intends to sue Mr Galliano for defamation.
Legal papers filed in Paris on April 13 claim that a Galliano card was being used up to seven times a day to take up to 2.8 million euros from both a corporate and personal account at a bank near Mr Zerbib’s office.
Mr Galliano said he discovered the 'serious irregularities' after inspecting his statements.
Aurelien Hamelle, Mr Galliano’s new lawyer, said: 'John Galliano brought a complaint on April 13 for aggravated breach of trust against his former legal counsel.'
Mr Zerbib's own lawyer, Emma Lapijower, confirmed the intended litigation action against Mr Galliano.
The deepening scandal could not come at a worse time for the fashion guru.
Paris Correctional Court will next week set a trial date for Mr Galliano, who is facing charges of making 'public insults based on the origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity' against three people.
A passionate defence by Mr Zerbib, who had worked with Mr Galliano for many years and did not consider him anti-Semitic, was considered a corner-stone of the designer's case.
Today Mr Zerbib said: 'John Galliano would do better to focus on his trial than waste his time looking for scapegoats.'
Mr Galliano has been sacked as chief designer at Christian Dior and from his eponymous label, which is owned by Dior.
He faces up to six months in prison and a 20,000 pounds fine over two allegedly drunken rants in a bar close to his Paris flat.
One was against an unnamed 47-year-old woman last October, while the other was against Philippe Virgitti, a receptionist, and Geraldine Bloch, a museum curator.
Mr Galliano is said to have called Mr Virgitti an 'Asian bastard' and Ms Bloch a 'dirty Jew'.
Since the charges were filed, a video has also emerged of Mr Galliano telling two women that their forefathers would have been 'gassed' by the Nazis, and that 'I love Hitler'. The women have not pressed charges, but the video is expected to be offered as evidence.
Before being sacked by Mr Galliano, Mr Zerbib blamed his client's problems on a mixture of 'alcohol and medication.'
Discussing being Jewish and defending an alleged anti-Semite, Mr Zerbib said: 'There are always those who preach, who say "how can a Jew defend anyone accused of such slurs?".
'My job as a lawyer is to guarantee that a person gets a fair trial and that his rights will be protected. I am wary of pre-judgment, that's not my job.
'This has nothing to do with the fact I'm Jewish or not. In this profession we take an oath to provide any person with the possibility of defense, regardless of their social background, nationality, religion or skin colour - just like doctors.'