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Saturday, December 4, 2021

French player Karim Benzema, guilty in sex-tape scandal

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has been found guilty of conspiring to blackmail a fellow French footballer with a sex tape. A judge handed Benzema a one-year suspended jail term and ordered him to pay a €75,000 (£63,000; $84,000) fine.

Benzema, 33, was one of five people put on trial last month over an attempt to extort Frenchman Mathieu Valbuena.

The scandal has stunned the football community in France and both players lost their national team places.

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

At the camp, Benzema put pressure on Valbuena to pay off the blackmailers, whom he had conspired with to act as an intermediary, prosecutors said.

Benzema has always denied the allegations and insisted he was only trying to help Valbuena get rid of the compromising video.

The player has since returned to the France team and is expected to start for Real Madrid on Wednesday night when they play FC Sheriff Tiraspol in the Champions League.

Benzema was not present in court in Versailles for the verdict, nor was Valbuena who plays for Greek club Olympiakos.

Four of Benzema’s co-defendants in the trial were also found guilty on Wednesday.

Benzema’s lawyers said they would appeal his conviction. “The reaction is ultimately an angry one to this judgment which is perfectly contradictory,” his lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, told reporters outside court.

But when delivering the verdict, the judge said Benzema was “personally involved” in the scheme to extort money.

What is this case about?

It began in 2015 when 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. He and another defendant in the trial, Mustapha Zouaoui, are accused of trying to blackmail Valbuena by threatening to make the tape public.

Mr Zouaoui told reporters he had shared the tape, but there had never been an attempt to extort money.

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