French international soccer star Karim Benzema has gone on trial in France on Oct. 20 for allegedly attempting to blackmail former teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape.
Benzema, who plays for football club Real Madrid, faces a charge of “complicity in attempted blackmail” in a case that dates back to June 2015.
If convicted, Benzema faces up to five years in prison and a €75,000 ($87,456) fine.
The case began when Axel Angot, who has connections to footballing circles in France, reportedly discovered a sexually explicit video on Valbuena’s phone.
Angot and his friend Mustapha Zouaoui tried to blackmail Valbuena by threatening to publicly release the video, according to prosecutors.
Valbuena received an anonymous call about an arrangement over the sex tape. Instead of complying, he filed a police complaint, according to court documents.
Angot and Zouaoui enlisted the help of Karim Zenati, a friend of Benzema, whom prosecutors accused recruiting Benzema as a “middleman” to convince Valbuena to pay.
Benzema said he was only trying to help Valbuena, warning him, “Be careful. These are very, very heavy criminals.
But Benzema, in a phone call recorded by the police, told Zenati, “He’s not taking us seriously.”
Benzema, who has denied any wrongdoing, did not appear in court due to “professional” reasons, according to his lawyer.
The trial will continue until the end of the week, with four other defendants Angot, Zouaoui, Zenati and Youness Houass facing charges of attempted blackmail.
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