The Guardian

Benzema found guilty in sex tape extortion scandal

- Angelique Chrisafis

Karim Benzema has received a one-year suspended jail sentence and been fined €75,000 (£63,000) for his involvemen­t in a sex tape extortion scandal that shocked French sport.

A Versailles court yesterday found Benzema guilty of complicity in attempted blackmail against his French teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a video thought to have been stolen from Valbuena’s mobile phone.

Benzema’s lawyer said the Real Madrid striker would immediatel­y appeal against the sentence, calling it “unfair and based on no proof”. Benzema, who denied wrongdoing, had been absent from court due to sporting commitment­s, but his lawyers said he would be present if a second trial took place on appeal.

An investigat­ion opened in July 2015 when Valbuena, who then played as a midfielder for France and Lyon, went to the police after contact from an unknown man claiming to be in possession of an incriminat­ing sex tape apparently recorded on a mobile phone. The caller said they should come to an arrangemen­t.

Benzema, 33, was one of five people put on trial last month over the extortion attempts against Valbuena. Benzema was accused of encouragin­g Valbuena, 37, to deal with the blackmaile­rs and to pay them. One intermedia­ry was a childhood friend of Benzema’s. Benzema’s lawyer denied in court that he was complicit in blackmail, saying he had intervened only to try to help his teammate find a solution, not to blackmail him.

The court found Benzema guilty of complicity in targeting Valbuena, who now plays for Olympiakos. The judge said yesterday that Benzema had “personally got involved, with insistence, to try to convince Mathieu Valbuena to meet his trusted man”. The court found Benzema showed “no kindness” to Valbuena.

The court decision is unlikely to affect Benzema’s immediate sporting future. He is regarded as one of the favourites to win the Ballon d’Or on Monday. The French federation president, Noël Le Graët, has said he would be allowed to keep playing for France even if found guilty.

Four other men received guilty verdicts in the case yesterday and were given penalties ranging from suspended prison sentences to two and a half years in jail.

 ?? ?? ▲ Karim Benzema was fined €75,000 and given a suspended jail sentence
▲ Karim Benzema was fined €75,000 and given a suspended jail sentence

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