Benzema to contest guilty verdict

VERSAILLES • France and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema will be lodging an appeal, after he was found guilty yesterday of complicity in the attempted blackmail of a former international teammate over a sex tape and sentenced to a one-year suspended jail term.

The Versailles court also fined him €75,000 (S$115,000) and ordered him to pay former teammate Mathieu Valbuena €80,000 to cover legal costs and €150,000 in damages together with his three other co-accused.

Benzema's lawyers said he would appeal against the verdict.

The 33-year-old, who had denied any wrongdoing, was not in court. He was due to play for Real Madrid against Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol later yesterday.

"This outcome in no way corresponds with the reality of events," lawyer Antoine Vey said.

Another of his lawyers, Sylvain Cormier, said he was "quite stunned by the ruling".

Earlier this month, the president of the French Football Federation, Noel le Graet, said Benzema would not be excluded from the national team were he to be convicted and given the 10-month suspended sentence prosecutors wanted.

Prosecutors had argued that Benzema had encouraged Valbuena to pay a suspected group of blackmailers in order to keep the sexually explicit tape out of the public eye.

They said Valbuena received the first of several phone calls threatening to expose the tape in June 2015. Valbuena, 37, told the court it was clear the caller wanted money and that the blackmail attempt left him fearing for his career and place in the national squad.

Benzema was recruited by the alleged blackmailers to encourage Valbuena to pay as his teammate stalled, the prosecution had added.

Benzema had shown no goodwill to Valbuena and pretended to have his best interests at heart, the judges said in their written ruling.

He had "deliberately helped the authors of the attempted blackmail of Valbuena", they added.

Benzema and Valbuena both lost their places in the national team in the wake of the scandal, dubbed the "sex tape affair".

Benzema, who has more than 90 caps, was recalled to the France squad for this year's European Championship.

Among his co-defendants were childhood friend Karim Zenati, who acted as an intermediary, and Mustapha Zouaoui, one of the suspected architects of the scam. All four defendants were found guilty in connection with the attempted blackmail.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'Benzema to contest guilty verdict'. Subscribe