Real Madrid and France striker Karim Benzema has gone on trial in France as he has been accused of complicity in an attempt to blackmail fellow footballer Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape which was found in his phone. The player has however ridiculed the charge against him as a “masquerade” and did not appear at the court in Versailles.
The case dates back to June 2015, when him and Mathieu Valbuena were at a France training camp. The saga rocked French football and both players lost their team places. However, Karim Benzema was recalled back to the national team early this year.
Karim Benzema and Valbuena Sex Scandal
He is on trial with four other men accused of trying to blackmail Valbuena, who told the court on Wednesday that football was his life. According to Valbuena, he said: “I knew if that video got out it would make things difficult with the French team.”
The sex tape case began in 2015 when 37-year-old Mathieu Valbuena asked a man in Marseille, Axel Angot, to upload the contents of his mobile phone to a new device. The man then found the sex tap on the phone, and he and another defendant in the trial, Mustapha Zouaoui decided to carry the video without Valbuena’s knowledge.
The men are accused of trying to blackmail Mr 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. Mathieu Valbuena described being approached by another defendant, Younes Houass, who then told the court the player was acting as if nothing was wrong and he had warned him of the seriousness of the issue, without asking for money.
When the footballer went to the police, an undercover agent named Luka was given the task of negotiating on his behalf. The defendants are accused of approaching a childhood friend of Mr Benzema called Karim Zenati.
According to Karim Benzema he said he approached his Valbuena in his room at the national team’s training camp. He said he had merely tried to help his team-mate get rid of the compromising video, warning him: “Be careful, Math, they’re big, big thugs.”
He then offered to put him touch with someone he could trust his childhood friend, Mr Zenati. Police were by now tapping their phone calls and recorded Mr Benzema telling his childhood friend: “He’s not taking us seriously.” Mr Zenati is said to have replied: “We’re here to sort it out; if he doesn’t want that he’ll have to deal with the piranhas.”
Meanwhile, Mr Valbuena is said to have already told his family about the footage on his phone. So, he had never considered handing over money to stop the video getting out. The defence lawyers have already argued that police were wrong to use an undercover agent and that the agent pushed the defendants to demand money. But French courts threw out the lawyers’ objections to police methods in 2018.
The trial will continue until the end of the week, with four defendants facing charges of attempted blackmail and Karim Benzema accused of complicity. Should the Real Madrid skipper and striker be found guilty he stands the chance of facing five-yearsand he will also pay €75,000 (£63,000) fine.