Karim Benzema, a Real Madrid and France international soccer player, was found guilty of plotting to blackmail a former colleague over a sex film. The controversy has been ongoing since 2015, and it has resulted in significant career repercussions for both athletes.
A court in Versailles, France, sentenced Benzema to a year in prison with no possibility of parole and fined him 75,000 euros ($84,000). Four of Benzema’s co-defendants were also found guilty of attempted blackmail by the court.
Benzema’s lawyers have told the media that he intends to appeal. According to Reuters, lawyer Antoine Vey remarked after the verdict, “This decision in no way conforms with the truth of events.”
Prosecutors have painted Benzema as a go-between who attempted to persuade French teammate Mathieu Valbuena to pay blackmailers who threatened to leak a sex film in 2015 — a claim Benzema has always rejected.
Valbuena started at the trial that Benzema contacted him and claimed he had a buddy who “could fix your situation,” according to the Associated Press. Benzema is heard telling his co-defendant and old buddy Karim Zenati about the interaction with Valbuena on a wiretapped phone shown in court.
After the controversy broke, Benzema was kicked from the national team. Benzema, who is of Algerian origin, said racism had a role in his decision at the time.
What Occurred in The Sex Tape Blackmail Case Involving Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena?
The incident began in June 2015, when Valbuena was on his way to join Lyon, a year after leaving fierce rivals Marseille, where he was a fan favorite. The midfielder contacted Axel Angot in Marseille to transfer material from his phone to a new device.
Angot discovered sexually graphic footage and was accused of attempting to blackmail Valbuena by threatening to make the film public unless he paid them money, together with another guy, Mustapha Zouaoui.
Valbuena approached the cops, who organized an undercover sting operation. This showed the participation of Karim Zenati, Benzema’s boyhood pal. According to prosecutors, Benzema was accused of acting as a “middleman” when he contacted Valbuena during a France training camp in October 2015 and persuaded him to pay the blackmailers.
Although police were tapping the group’s phones by that moment, and a court subsequently heard how they overheard a call where the Madrid star informed Zenati: “He’s not taking us seriously,” Benzema said he was only trying to assist his buddy end a potentially embarrassing event.
Karim Benzema Was Discarded by France for A Reason
In November 2015, Benzema was arrested and held overnight at a police station in Versailles. He was subjected to a formal court investigation.
The French Football Federation (FFF) confirmed Benzema’s indefinite suspension from the national squad in December of that year. Noel Le Graet, president of the Federation, said: “This is a situation involving two persons to whom I am really close.
“Valbuena is a one-of-a-kind individual. He has never missed an opportunity to shine as a member of the French squad. He’s a fantastic player.
“After that, there’s Benzema… He grew up in a rough neighborhood and hasn’t altered his buddies. His pals haven’t progressed as he has grown into a celebrity, a media presence, and a wealthy individual. He doesn’t communicate effectively, but he’s a smart player in the game. What’s clear is that he’s been hanging out with some awful people.”
Le Graet went on to say that he was “convinced [Benzema] was caught up in something utterly insane that went over his head,” but that the striker would not play at Euro 2016 as long as his case was still being investigated.
When Did France Recall Karim Benzema?
Without each other, France and Benzema continued to have top success for more than a decade.
Between 2016 and 2018, Benzema was a major component of the Madrid team that won three consecutive Champions Leagues, before stepping up to become their attacking talisman after Cristiano Ronaldo moved for Juventus following the latter success.
Following their disappointment at Euro 2016, France went one further by winning the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with Kylian Mbappe shining brightly as the breakthrough star of a talented side.
The one place where France lacked depth was upfront, where Deschamps made a stunning U-turn after first-choice No. 9 Olivier Giroud was dropped by Chelsea. Benzema was picked to France’s team for the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament in May 2021.
“We met, we talked for a long time, and then I gave it a lot of consideration and came to this choice,” Deschamps added. “This conversation was just what I needed. He was in desperate need of conversation. As the head of the national team, I’ve always looked ahead.”