Karim Benzema is on trial for the Valbuena sex tape case
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is on trial Wednesday in France accused of complicity in the attempt to blackmail former international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena in a case known as the “sex tape affair”.
Benzema, 33, is accused of helping a group of suspected blackmailers approach Valbuena in an attempt to extort money. Four other men are also on trial.
The case cost Benzema and Valbuena, 37, their places in the French national team, although Benzema has been reinstated in the lineup for this year’s European Championship.
The case centers on the role Benzema is suspected of playing in the murky case six years ago, which began when Valbuena handed over his smartphone to Axel Angot, a man linked to football circles in the southern port city. de Marseille, with the request to transfer its content to a new device.
Benzema wants to play with Mbappe at Real Madrid
Angot, currently on trial for breach of trust, came across sexually explicit images over the phone implicating Valbuena.
Prosecutors say he then explored ways – along with a friend, Mustapha Zouaoui – to approach Valbuena and threaten to release the footage unless he pays for them.
Valbuena received several calls in June 2015 threatening to expose the footage, which he reported to police.
The blackmailers then turned to former French international Djibril Cissé, who refused to be their messenger, instead warning Valbuena of what was happening.
Cisse, who played for Premier League club Liverpool during his career, was first indicted in the case but was later cleared.
An imbroglio ensued involving several dark intermediaries, one of whom turned out to be an undercover agent called “Luka” placed by the police who was trying to obtain evidence before taking action against the protagonists.
Eventually, the alleged blackmailers went to one of Benzema’s old friends, Karim Zenati, who prosecutors said turned to Benzema for help in reaching Valbuena.
Zidane backs Benzema over sex tape charge
– “Very serious criminals” –
On October 6, 2015, Benzema went to see Valbuena in his room at the French team’s training center in Clairefontaine, west of Paris.
He told his teammate that he could introduce him to a “trusted person” to help him “manage” the possible publication of a compromising video.
In what Benzema later claimed was an attempt to help his teammate out of a difficult situation, he told him: “Be careful ‘Math’, they are very, very heavy criminals.”
Benzema then called his childhood friend Karim Zenati, who was then acting as an intermediary for the alleged blackmailers, and told him in a conversation wiretapped by the police: “He does not take us seriously”.
Prosecutors say the word “we” proves that Benzema considered himself to be part of the blackmail plan.
Valbuena later said the conversation left him feeling like he “was being played for a fool”.
“If he doesn’t want us to take care of this for him, he will have to deal with the piranhas,” Zenati said, later claiming that all he wanted to do was alert Valbuena to the existence of the video.
Benzema replied that “they are going to piss on him”, and in a subsequent conversation he referred to Valbuena with a derogatory term for a homosexual, which he later said was meant “in a friendly manner. “.
The maximum penalty for complicity in attempted blackmail is five years in prison and a fine of 70,000 euros ($ 81,000).
Benzema claimed that the undercover policeman used dishonest methods to drag him into the case.
It was not clear on Monday whether the forward, who is due to play for Real Madrid against Shakhtar Donetsk in a Champions League match in Ukraine on Tuesday, will attend the trial. His lawyers did not respond to AFP’s requests for clarification.
Valbuena, who now plays for Greek club Olympiakos, will be present, his lawyer said.
The sex tape affair resulted in Benzema’s exile from the French national football team for years – a move he called “racist” – but the striker returned to the “Blues” this year in time for the European Championship.
France coach Didier Deschamps said this month that “he’s not the same person anymore, he’s matured”.
Benzema has scored a total of 243 goals for Real and remains a key part of his squad.