Friday, December 3, 2021

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Benzema returns to trial in sex tape blackmail

Real Madrid and France striker Karim Benzema has gone on trial in France accused of complicity in an attempt to blackmail international teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape found on his phone.

The case dates back to June 2015, when the two footballers were at a France training camp.

The saga rocked French football and both players lost their team places.

Karim Benzema, 33, has since returned to the France team and scored in Real Madrid’s victory in Kyiv on Tuesday in the Uefa Champions League. His lawyer put his absence down to “professional” reasons.

He is on trial with four other men accused of trying to blackmail Mr Valbuena, who regretted that Benzema was not in court Wednesday.

The sex tape case began in 2015 when Mr Valbuena, now 37, asked a man in Marseille, Axel Angot, to upload the contents of his mobile phone to a new device.

Mr Angot found sexually explicit material on the phone, and he and another defendant in the trial, Mustapha Zouaoui, are then accused of trying to blackmail Mr Valbuena by threatening to make the tape public.

When the footballer went to the police, they set up a sting operation with an undercover agent named Luka, who was given the task of acting as his intermediary.

Another defendant was allegedly brought into the scam – Karim Zenati, who is a childhood friend of Mr Benzema. He is then accused of getting the footballer involved, to act as a “middleman” with Mr Valbuena.

In October 2015 Mr Benzema approached his fellow France player in his room at the national team’s training camp.

Mr Benzema said he had merely tried to help his team-mate get rid of the compromising video, warning him: “Be careful, Math, they’re big, big thugs.”

He then offered to put him in touch with someone he could trust – his childhood friend, Zenati.

Police were by now tapping their phone calls and recorded Mr Benzema telling his friend: “He’s not taking us seriously.”

Mr Zenati is said to have replied: “We’re here to sort it out; if he doesn’t want that he’ll have to deal with the piranhas.”

Meanwhile, Mr Valbuena is said to have already told his family about the footage on his phone.

Giving evidence at the start of the trial, Mathieu Valbuena said he had never considered handing over money to stop the video getting out.

The trial will continue until the end of the week, with four defendants facing charges of attempted blackmail and Karim Benzema accused of complicity.

The maximum sentence for complicity in attempted blackmail is five years in jail and a €75,000 (£63,000) fine.

Unlike his former team-mate, Mathieu Valbuena, who now plays for Olympiacos in Greece, has never played for France since the sex-tape affair emerged.

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