Madrid striker Benzema tried in France for blackmail



FILE – In this file photo from October 3, 2021, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema reacts during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between RCD Espanyol and Real Madrid at Cornella-El Prat stadium in Barcelona, ​​Spain. Real Madrid and France striker Karim Benzema will be on trial from Wednesday, October 20, 2021 in Versailles, accused of being involved in an alleged blackmail case. (AP Photo / Joan Monfort, file)


Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema will be on trial outside Paris from Wednesday after being accused of trying to blackmail former France teammate Mathieu Valbuena on a sex tape.

Benzema is on trial for complicity in attempted blackmail. Four other people, including one of the player’s childhood friends, have been charged with attempted blackmail.

The charges carry a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($ 87,400). Benzema has denied any wrongdoing.

During his questioning, Benzema, 33, admitted to having served as an intermediary between one of the alleged blackmailers, his friend Karim Zenati, and Valbuena, who now plays for the Greek club Olympiakos.

But Benzema also told investigators that he took no part in the blackmail and that his involvement was limited to simply informing Valbuena, out of friendship, of the existence of the sex tape.

It is not known whether Benzema will be physically present at the trial from Wednesday to Friday in Versailles. Real Madrid were playing Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Tuesday and Benzema traveled and trained with his team in Kiev ahead of the game.

Valbuena lodged a first complaint with the police in June 2015. He stated that while on international service for France, at his training base in Clairefontaine, he had been called by an anonymous caller who told him about a sex. tap and told him they could work it out. . The appellant asked Valbuena to appoint a trusted intermediary to work out the details.

With a police inspector posing as a negotiator, the investigation first identified three people: Axel Angot, Mustapha Zouaoui and Younes Houass, all currently on trial for attempted blackmail. Their communications were tapped.

Benzema was then brought in by Zenati, a friend who was previously convicted of drug trafficking and theft and was released from prison in 2013.

When both were on international duty in October 2015, Benzema asked Valbuena to come to his room at Clairefontaine for a conversation which led Valbuena to conclude that his teammate from France was involved with the alleged blackmailers and was acting as their go-between. .

Police said they heard Benzema tell Zenati on a wiretap that evening that Valbuena “doesn’t take us seriously”.

Benzema later told the examining magistrate that he just wanted to help the midfielder.

Benzema and Zenati were both the subject of preliminary charges in November 2015, joining Angot, Zouaoui and Houass under formal investigation.

Benzema was then excluded from the French national team by coach Didier Deschamps, missing the 2016 European Championship and the 2018 World Cup, which France won.

Deschamps recalled Benzema in May ahead of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament and has fielded him 11 times so far in 2021.

Valbuena, now 37, hasn’t played for France since October 11, 2015, when he came into play in a friendly against Denmark.


Associated Press writer John Leicester in Paris contributed to this report.


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