French footballer, Karim Benzema has been found guilty of sex tape blackmail case
Karim Benzema, a striker for Real Madrid, was found guilty of plotting to use a sex film to blackmail a fellow French footballer.
A judge sentenced Benzema to a year in prison with no possibility of parole and fined him €75,000 (£63,000; $84,000).Last month, Benzema, 33, was one of five people charged with attempting to extort Frenchman Mathieu Valbuena. The controversy shook the French football community, and both players were dropped from the national squad.
The two footballers were at a French training camp in June 2015 when the incident occurred. Prosecutors claim that at the camp, Benzema placed pressure on Valbuena to pay up the blackmailers with whom he had arranged to act as an intermediary.
Benzema has consistently disputed the charges, claiming that all he wanted to do was assist Valbuena in getting rid of the compromising video. The midfielder has subsequently returned to France and is scheduled to start for Real Madrid in their Champions League match against FC Sheriff Tiraspol on Wednesday night.
Benzema and Valbuena, who plays for the Greek club Olympiakos, were not present in court in Versailles for the ruling. On Wednesday, four of Benzema’s co-defendants in the trial were also found guilty.
Benzema’s attorneys have stated that they will appeal his conviction. “The reaction to this judgement, which is totally paradoxical, is ultimately an angry one,” his lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, told reporters outside court.
However, the judge stated in his decision that Benzema was “directly implicated” in the extortion operation.
What is this case about ?
It all started in 2015, when Valbuena, now 37, asked Axel Angot, a man from Marseille, to transfer the contents of his phone to a new device.
On the phone, Mr. Angot discovered sexually obscene material. He and Mustapha Zouaoui, another defendant in the case, are accused of attempting to blackmail Valbuena by threatening to make the tape public.
Mr. Zouaoui told reporters that he had shared the recording with reporters, but that no attempt had been made to extort money.
Another defendant, Younes Houass, approached Valbuena and informed the court that he had warned the player about the problem without asking for money.
When the footballer reported the incident to the cops, they set up a sting operation using an undercover agent.
Prosecutors claimed that another defendant, Karim Zenati, a childhood friend of Benzema, was later pulled into the scheme. Prosecutors said Benzema was requested to participate as a “middleman” in the scam at this stage.
In his room during the national team’s training camp in October 2015, Benzema contacted his fellow France player.
“Be careful, Math,” Benzema warned, “they’re big, big goons.” Benzema said he was simply attempting to assist his teammate in disposing of the x-rated film.
He then promised to put him in touch with someone he knew he could trust, Mr Zenati, a childhood buddy.
“He’s not taking us seriously,” Benzema told his companion, according to police, who were listening in on their phone calls.
“We’re here to sort things out; if he doesn’t want that, he’ll have to deal with the piranhas,” Mr Zenati is reported to have replied.
Valbuena testified at the beginning of the trial that he had never considered paying money to prevent the footage from being released.
Valbuena has not represented France since the controversy broke, unlike his former teammate.
Valbuena informed the court that football was his life while testifying throughout the trial.
“I knew if that footage got out, it would complicate things with the French squad,” he explained.