kate middleton
Kate Middleton watches a game of volleyball as she visits Kelowna University during the Royal Tour of Canada on Sept. 27 in Kelowna, Canada. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Six people accused of profiting from topless photos of Kate Middleton faced jail Tuesday after their criminal trial opened in Paris. The defendants include senior staff at French regional newspaper La Provence, Closer Magazine, and Closer's parent company - Silvio Berlusconi's Arnoldo Mondadori Editore publishing group.

Three photographers were among those at Nanterre Correctional Court, accused of photographing the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless in 2012, according to the Sun. The images, which were first published in France's Closer magazine, angered Prince William and the Royal palace. The images also surfaced in Chi magazine – which is also owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mondadori media group.

Italian-based publisher Mondadori was placed under formal criminal investigation after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge launched criminal proceedings against the photographers under France’s strict privacy laws.

According to reports, the photographers stalked the royal couple at Chateau d’Autet – Viscount Linley’s retreat in Provence, and clicked their intimate photos when William and Middleton were believed to have been the only guests at the hotel.

All those involved in the incident have denied any wrongdoing, saying that William and Middleton are public figures who chose to expose their bodies in front of hotel staff, and on a terrace that was visible from nearby roads.

If convicted, the paparazzi involved in the case could face up to a year in prison, as well as fines of more than £40,000 ($49,000), while Closer could technically be shut down for up to five years.

At the time of the incident, a spokesman for Clarence House said the couple "have been hugely saddened to learn that a French publication and a photographer have invaded their privacy in such a grotesque and totally unjustifiable manner.

"The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, and all the more upsetting to the duke and duchess for being so. Their Royal Highnesses had every expectation of privacy in the remote house. It is unthinkable that anyone should take such photographs, let alone publish them," the statement said, adding: "Officials acting on behalf of their Royal Highnesses are consulting with lawyers to consider what options may be available to the duke and duchess."