Beleagured Real striker Benzema charged for complicity in sex-tape scandal
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The legal troubles of French international footballer Karim Benzema took a turn for the worse on Thursday, after the striker was charged with attempting to extort money from his fellow team player to keep a sex-tape of him private. Benzema allegedly admitted to being involved in the black mail case, but said he himself was a victim of blackmailers.
Karim Benzema spent the night at a police station in Versailles, near Paris on Wednesday, as investigators try to determine the extent of his involvement in attempts to extort money from his fellow player Mathieu Valbuena.
Prosecutors suspect the Real Madrid striker may have advised Valbuena to pay blackmailers more than 100,000 euros to keep an intimate video of the French national player from leaking to the press.
Benzema on Thursday admitted to speaking to his fellow player during a training match in early October at the request of a childhood friend, who was approached by three blackmailers who were in possession of the sex tape, sources close to the investigation said.
It was "to help him" out of a bind the striker insisted, who claims he himself was a "victim" of blackmailers.
It's believed Benzema told Valbuena that he'd found out about the sex-video implicating him, from his brother's friend in Lyon, where Valbuena has been playing since this summer.
Was this conversation purely friendly advice or part of a bigger plot by Benzema and the suspected blackmailers to extort money from Valbuena? That's what investigators are trying to decide.
Benzema's lawyers have vigourously denied "any involvement" of their client in this case which was first opened in July; but on Thursday, the Madrid star finally admitted to knowing more than he was letting on; a U-turn that is unlikely to go down well with public opinion.
"People in the public eye are very well paid, they have responsibilities and they shouldn't just be allowed to get away with it and walk back into their old jobs again," former Chelsea and Scottish football player Pat Nevin told RFI.
An investigating judge must determine whether or not Benzema should be charged for attempted blackmail - which carries a maximum 7-year prison sentence in France- or be called in as a witness in an eventual trial.
If judicial proceedings are levied against the international footballer, it could be damaging for his career Nevin says: "When there's any sort of sex scandal involved, it's not just the courts who decide but it's also public opinion."
The star's wrangles with the justice-which also include a previous affair of underage prostitution- could also be damaging for France's national team by depriving Les Bleus of one of their star players at less than seven months to go before European championships.
Benzema is currently in convalescence after a leg injury, and the legal twists involving him are unlikely to help his recovery.
Sex, fame, money, and one player trying to get money off another player, the blackmail case involving one of the world's most influential football players "has all the ingredients of a tabloid dream," Nevin added, "but before we get carried away, let's wait and find out what the judicial system finds out themselves," he said.