PARIS • Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema was held for questioning yesterday in connection with an investigation into a case of blackmail involving a sex tape featuring team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.
The France football international arrived with a hood pulled over his head at the police station in Versailles, near Paris, early yesterday.
Investigators are trying to determine the extent of his involvement in a months-long attempt to extort money from fellow France international Valbuena after a sex tape found its way into the hands of a group of blackmailers.
Benzema, 27, reportedly mentioned the intimate video to Valbuena when the France team met for training near Paris early last month, ahead of matches against Armenia and Denmark.
One of Benzema's relatives was contacted by the suspected blackmailers with a view to involving the footballer in their scheme.
Police are seeking to determine whether Benzema was just teasing Valbuena when he mentioned the tape, or trying to make him pay the group of suspected blackmailers, who were charged and put in detention last month.
A fortnight ago, former France and Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse was interviewed and released as part of the same investigation. He protested his innocence on French television and later announced his retirement.
Before Benzema was arrested, his lawyer Sylvain Cormier told the Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche that his client would respond to any summons. He added that Benzema himself was targeted by blackmailers in 2011.
Attempted blackmail carries a maximum five-year prison sentence in France.
It is not the first time Benzema has been embroiled in a police probe. In 2009, he and team-mate Franck Ribery were accused of sleeping with under-age prostitute Zahia Dehar. Both men were cleared of wrongdoing.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN