Benzema convicted of role in sex tape scam to blackmail France teammate Valbuena

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France international footballer Karim Benzema was on Wednesday found guilty of being part of a sex video scam to blackmail his former France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema, 33, who plays for the Spanish club Real Madrid, was not in court in the western suburb of Versailles to hear the verdict.

He was handed a 12-month suspended sentence and fined €75,000 euros for his role in what became known in the French media as the “sex tape affair".

Benzema, who is preparing for Madrid’s Champion’s League clash against FC Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova on Wednesday night, was not accused of being behind the extortion attempt but of conspiring with the blackmailers to put pressure on Valbuena to pay them off.

Mustapha Zouaoui, was jailed for two and a half years and fined €3,000 for dreaming up the plot in 2015 after Axel Angot approached him and showed him sexually explicit material on Valbuena’s portable telephone.

Angot, who was found guilty of attempted blackmail and breach of trust, was jailed for two years and fined €25,000. Valbuena had given him his old phone in 2014 and asked him to transfer its contents onto a new one.

Younes Houass was convicted of attempted blackmail and given an 18 month suspended sentence. Prosecutors told the hearings he contacted Valbuena and also discussed payments with an undercover policemen who was posing as a confidante of Valbuena.

Karim Zenati, was sentenced to 15 months for attempted blackmail and fined €3,000. The court was told Zouaoui pushed him forward after realising Houass was not making progress.

Prosecutors said Zouaoui felt that Zenati, a childhood friend of Benzema, would be more effective.

Appeal

Benzema’s lawyers said on Wedensday that he would appeal. "This outcome in no way corresponds with the reality of events," Antoine Vey told reporters.

The comments followed a judgment that will force a re-evaluation of Benzema’s place in the national side despite support from French football’s top administrator.

Earlier this month, Noel Le Graet, the president of the French Football Federation, said Benzema would not be excluded from the national team were he to be convicted.

"The coach will always be responsible for his selection and Benzema will not be left out because of an eventual judicial sanction," Le Graet told Le Parisien.

On Wednesday, the Versailles court ruled that Benzema had implicated himself personally through subterfuge and lies to convince Valbuena to follow the blackmailers’ orders.

Judges said he had shown no kindness towards Valbuena and had even appeared to take pleasure in the then Lyon star’s misfortune.

Fear

"I felt in danger," Valbuena told the Versailles hearing last month. "My first reflex was to file a criminal complaint. I feared for my sporting career and for the French team.

"I knew if the video came out things would be difficult for me in the French team, as was proven to be the case later."

As the murky details emerged in late 2015, both Valbuena and Benzema lost their places in the national squad though Benzema was restored to the fold just before last summer's European championships.

He was part of the team that won the Nations League trophy in October and completed the qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Valbuena, who scored eight goals in 52 games for France, moved to the Greek outfit Olympiakos at the start of the 2019/20 season after two years at the Turkish side Fenerbahçe.

The 37-year-old midfielder will receive around €150,000 in compensation and damages.

“My client was mainly waiting for recognition of his status as a victim,” said his lawyer Didier Domat. “He got it, he is satisfied, he does not expect excuses from anyone

Domat added: “He is relieved to see the end of this procedure because the last few years have been trying. He has suffered sporting prejudices that are difficult to repair. He faced this ordeal with courage, discretion and honesty.”

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