Footballer Benzema a witness in money-laundering case


Paris (AFP)

French striker Karim Benzema, already at the centre of a sex-tape blackmail inquiry, has given evidence in a money laundering investigation, a judicial source told AFP.

Benzema's testimony was part of an inquiry opened last September by top financial investigating magistrate Renaud van Ruymbeke into alleged money laundering by a criminal gang, the source said.

"At this stage no more questioning of Karim Benzema is envisaged," the judicial source told AFP.

The Real Madrid striker had shares in a company which purchased a premises in Paris' eighth district near the Champs Elysees to open a restaurant.

Liberation newspaper said that "the footballer delegated all authority to his business partner ... while giving a guarantee for the sum of 2.5 million euros for the sale".

The investigation concerns whether the purchase and the restaurant were used for money laundering from drug trafficking, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.

According to Libération, the premises were sold "with a clear loss of two million euros".

Benzema, 28, is France's leading goalscorer, but has been excluded from national duty since he was placed under investigation over an attempt to bribe France teammate Mathieu Valbuena for a sex-tape. Benzema has been accused of complicity in the attempt.

An appeals court has upheld an investigating magistrate's decision to lift restrictions placed on Benzema that prevented him from coming into contact with Lyon midfielder Valbuena, who was the target of the blackmail attempt.

The French Football Federation faces sporting pressure to bring Benzema back into the national side. But Prime Minister Manuel Valls and other politicians have opposed any rehabilitation while the sex-tape inquiry goes on.