PARIS: Real Madrid and France centre-forward Karim Benzema faces being charged with involvement in the ‘sextape blackmail’ case concerning international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.
Benzema, who had detained overnight by the police in Versaille, has been barred from communicating or associating with Valbuena. However he has been permitted to return to Spain.
Prosecutors have stated that “attempted blackmail and complicity of participation in a criminal association for the preparation of such an offence [in this case blackmail] is punishable by at least five years’ imprisonment.”
Benzema’s lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, has stated that his client is innocent.
The case complicates the task of national coach Didier Deschamps who is about to name his squad to play Germany and England in friendly matches on November 13 and 17.
Benzema, albeit currently injured, and Valbuena would have been expected to meet up at France’s Clairefontaine training centre on Monday.
He is alleged to have discussed the “intimate video” with Valbuena before three criminals attempted to blackmail the Lyon player.
Benzema, according to prosecutors, “admitted to discuss [the tape] with Valbuena at the request of a childhood friend.” Three alleged blackmailers have also been charged.
The case began in June when Valbuena filed a complaint after being called by a stranger claiming him to be in possession of a supposedly incriminating video. Negotiations began between a police officer, posing for Valbuena, and the criminal contact.
Two alleged blackmailers are relatives of the former international Djibril Cissé, who was detained briefly last month or questioning and then released without charge.
Benzema, 27, is originally from Lyon, where he began his career. He has scored 27 goals in 81 appearances for France.
He is no stranger to controversy off the pitch. Five years ago he was charged, along with France team-mate Franck Ribery, for hiring an under-age prostitute, Zahia Dehar. Both players were later acquitted.