The Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema’s trial on the accusation of the alleged involvement in blackmailing of his former teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape is underway.

The French International footballer is accused of ‘complicity’ in the alleged targeting of Mathieu Valbuena. Investigators claim Benzema encouraged midfielder Valbuena, 37, to pay the blackmailers.

Both players lost their place in France’s national team after the controversy happened in 2015 with Valbuena described as not being in an emotional state to play. The 33-year-old Benzema, although, returned to the national team this year for the European Championship.

The three-day trial from Wednesday will examine Benzema’s involvement in an alleged plot by four other men to extort money from Valbuena that came to the surface when Olympiacos player gave his mobile phone to Axel Angot, a man associated to footballing circles in France, and asked him to transfer its data to a new phone.

Angot is reported to have discovered a sexually explicit video on the phone involving Valbuena. Prosecutors say that Angot and a friend, Mustapha Zouaoui, designed a plan to blackmail Valbuena and threaten to publicly release the footage unless the footballer paid them.

Prosecutors will tell the court an anonymous caller rang Valbuena in June 2015 while he was at the French team’s training centre at Clairefontaine, west of Paris, and said he wanted to “come to an arrangement” over a sex tape. Valbuena, who said he received several calls warning that the allegedly compromising film would be released, reported them to the police.

Benzema’s alleged involvement:

Angot and Zouaoui are alleged to have the assistance of one of Benzema’s friends, Karim Zenati, who is accused of getting Benzema’s help as a “middleman” to contact Valbuena.

On 6 October 2015, four months after the blackmailers contacted Valbuena, Benzema allegedly went to see Valbuena and offered him his help to “manage” the possible publication of the video.

Prosecutors claim Benzema was recruited by the alleged blackmailers to convince his teammate to pay up.

However, Benzema said that he acted as an intermediary to help his friend out of a difficult situation by telling him of the existence of the tape and warning him.

Afterward, Benzema is alleged to have then called Zenati and told him, “He’s not taking us seriously.” The conversation was recorded by the police.

Valbuena, who plays for the Greek Super League club Olympiacos, said that the conversation left him with the feeling he was “being played for a fool”.

Benzema has denied the charges. His lawyer described the case against the footballer as ‘absurd’. The player has argued the undercover police officer used dishonest means and methods to drag the Real Madrid star into the affair.

His four co-accused, Angot, Zouaoui, Zenati and Youness Houass, are being tried on charges of attempted blackmail with an extra charge of breach of trust on Angot.

Benzema faces jail time if convicted

Benzema, who did not appear in court, faces up to five years in jail and a €75,000 (£63,000) fine if convicted. Valbuena’s lawyer told the court that he ‘deplored’ the player’s absence that suggested he may not be taking the trial seriously.

Earlier this year, Valbuena said that he believed the case had led to the end of his international career.

He said, “I’d have preferred to be left out of the French team for sporting reasons … it’s true this obviously affected me greatly. When you’ve always been a good player and proudly worn the French shirt, it’s always hard to accept. I accepted it and I continued … but it’s a wound that’s difficult to get over.”

The story was filed by the News Desk.
The Desk can be reached at info@thecorrespondent.com.pk.

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