Benzema bombshell – Real Madrid star charged over sex-tape blackmail of France teammate Valbuena
The 27 -year-old appeared in a Versailles court is accused of complicity in an attempt to blackmail and conspiring to commit a criminal act involving France teammate Mathieu Valbuena
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema was charged yesterday in an extortion case involving a sex tape featuring fellow French international Mathieu Valbuena, prosecutors said.
Benzema, 27, has been charged with "complicity in an attempt to blackmail" and conspiring to commit a criminal act, the prosecutor's office in Versailles, outside Paris, said.
The charges carry a prison sentence of at least five years.
Benzema was also banned from meeting Lyon midfielder Valbuena, a legal constraint that puts in question the players' involvement in the French national team, who play Germany and England later this month.
READ: Sex, lies and videotape: Real Madrid's Karim benzema questioned over alleged sex-tape blackmail
Benzema's lawyer said the player, a key part of the national team and an important source of goals for Real Madrid, insisted he was innocent.
The player told investigators he approached Valbuena about the tape on behalf of "a childhood friend".
Benzema spent the night in custody in Versailles after being arrested on Wednesday.
"Karim Benzema has admitted speaking to Valbuena at the request of a childhood friend, who was approached by three blackmailers who were in possession of the sex tape," a source said.
"Benzema said he had agreed with his childhood friend on what he should say so that his teammate [Valbuena] would negotiate exclusively with him."
Benzema is said to have talked with Valbuena about the sex tape when the French squad met for training on October 5 ahead of friendly internationals.
The three alleged blackmailers, who are all in custody, had first contacted a friend of Benzema's brother seeking to involve the player in their extortion attempt, a source said.
The centre-forward has scored 27 goals in 81 appearances for France and has notched six league goals this season for Real.
France coach Didier Deschamps is expected to name his squad for friendlies against Germany and England on November 13 and 17, an announcement complicated by the legal constraints placed on Benzema because both he and Valbuena would ordinarily both expect to be selected.
In June, Valbuena lodged a complaint with police after being phoned by a person who said he had the sex tape. The caller did not specify a sum of money.
Police then posed as Valbuena's business associate in later calls with the blackmailers, who threatened to release the video ahead of the Euro 2016 championships, which France is hosting.