French footballer Karim Benzema has been placed under formal investigation in connection with a sex tape blackmail plot involving another player.
This is not the first time Karim Benzema, striker for Los Blancos and the French national team, has been involved in a police inquiry after denying allegations he slept with an under-aged prostitute in 2014.
Now, the french striker has been placed under judicial investigation in connection with a blackmail allegation surrounding a sex tape, apparently recorded on a mobile phone involving Mathieu Valbuena, another French international. Mr Benzema appeared before a judge in Versailles on Thursday morning after spending the previous evening in custody.
The French international, now placed under examination to determine whether he did attempt, or was complicit, to extort money from his fellow teammate, faces a formal charge. If the judges find sufficient evidence to prove his involvement in the plot and guilty of attempted blackmail, the penalty is a minimum of 5 years in jail.
Real Madrid has released an official statement supporting their player.
“Karim Benzema returned to training this evening [Thursday] at Real Madrid City after making a statement to the French authorities in Versailles”.
The announcement also says that Florentino Pérez, president of the Spanish football club, “held a meeting with the player in which he gave him his full support and expressed his confidence that his actions were in good faith and that he is completely innocent”.
“The club values and recognises the professional commitment, the displays of camaraderie with his team-mates and the impeccable attitude he has shown as a core member of the first team squad for the more than six seasons that he has been a part of Real Madrid”.
Despite the support, Mr. Benzema’s football has suffered having been left out of Tuesday’s Champions League victory over Paris St-Germain, however, injury was the reason given for his omission. His thigh strain could also be the reason why French coach Didier Deschamps also left him out of the national team in the run up to the two upcoming games against Germany and England.
Although Mr. Deschamps has refused to comment on the legal case, Lyon midfielder Mr. Valbuena was also omitted and “was not in an emotional state to play”. Whatever the outcome of the investigation, both players, particularly Mr. Benzema, find themselves in a shroud of doubt ahead of next year’s Euro 2016 tournament hosted by France.
Karim Benzama, regarded as one of Europe’s top strikers and at one point linked with Arsenal, is the top scorer for Les Bleus with 27 goals in 81 appearances. He has won many honours during his six seasons at Madrid but has yet to make a valuable contribution at a major tournament for his country.
Mr. Benzema’s lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, spoke to reporters after the ruling that put the striker under investigation. “Karim Benzema has nothing to hide” he said, adamant that his client was not guilty of charges.
“He supports his friend, Mathieu Valbuena, with all his heart. He took no part, I state this again – no part – in the blackmail or blackmail attempts,” Mr. Cormier added.
“Karim Benzema will show he acted in good faith, and I hope this will be seen as soon as possible”. Mr. Cormier here referring to the events leading up to the 27 year old star’s involvement.
During a national team training session in Clairefontaine in October, Mr. Benzema approached Mr. Valbuena about the tape on behalf of a “childhood friend”, according to French Media. His knowledge of the tape and striker’s exchange with the Lyon midfielder are the basis of the investigation to determine whether Mr. Benzema is guilty of blackmail.
This all comes a fortnight after the questioning of former Liverpool and France striker Djibril Cissé as part of the same investigation. Cissé, who later announced his retirement from the game, was released and subsequently appeared on French television protesting his innocence.