VERSAILLES, France, Oct 20 (Reuters) – France and Real Madrid ahead Karim Benzema went on trial in absentia on Wednesday, charged with complicity within the tried blackmail of former worldwide group mate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape.
Prosecutors allege that Benzema, who has denied wrongdoing, inspired Valbuena to pay a suspected group of blackmailers with a view to maintain the sexually specific tape out of the general public eye.
They say Valbuena obtained a primary name threatening to show the tape in June, 2015 whereas on the French squad’s coaching centre in Clairefontaine, west of Paris.
Valbuena instructed the court docket in close by Versailles on Wednesday that it was clear the caller needed cash, and that the blackmail try left him fearing for his profession and place within the nationwide squad.
Benzema was not within the court docket for the beginning of the trial due to skilled obligations, stated his lawyer, who has described the case towards him as “absurd”.
The 33-year-old, who has performed 92 occasions for his nation and was recalled to the France squad for this 12 months’s European Championship, performed in Ukraine on Tuesday night time in his membership’s 5-0 Champions League group stage win over Shakhtar Donetsk.
Benzema and Valbuena each misplaced their locations within the nationwide group within the wake of the scandal, dubbed the “sex tape affair”.
According to prosecutors, Valbuena’s nameless first caller stated he needed to “come to an arrangement” with Valbuena and instructed him to call an middleman.
The blackmailers initially turned to former French worldwide Djibril Cisse to steer Valbuena to pay the hush cash. Instead, Cisse warned him of the extortion plot, Valbuena stated.
An undercover police officer posed on Valbuena’s behalf as a intermediary and recorded cellphone conversations between June and October, 2015 that helped establish the alleged blackmailers, based on prosecutors.
Benzema was recruited by the alleged blackmailers to encourage Valbuena to payas his teammate stalled, they allege.
Among Benzema’s co-accused are his childhood pal Karim Zenati, who allegedly acted as an middleman, and Mustapha Zouaoui, one of many suspected architects of the rip-off.
Zouaoui instructed reporters he had obtained the sex tape and shared it with Benzema and different members of the French group, however stated there had by no means been an try and extort cash from Valbuena. “We kept the tape for ourselves,” he stated earlier than the trial opened.
Benzema, who’s accused of complicity to tried blackmail, faces as much as 5 years in jail and a 75,000 euro ($87,000) fantastic if convicted.
His 4 co-accused face fees of tried blackmail.
($1 = 0.8597 euros)