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Football star Karim Benzema, who plays for Real Madrid and the French national team, has been found guilty of conspiring to blackmail a former teammate into a sex tape. The scandal has been unfolding since 2015 and has caused major setbacks in the careers of both players.
A court in Versailles, France, sentenced Benzema to a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of 75,000 euros (approximately $ 84,000). The court also found four of Benzema’s co-defendants guilty of attempted blackmail.
Benzema’s lawyers told reporters he planned to appeal. “This outcome does not correspond to the reality of events,” lawyer Antoine Vey said after the verdict, according to Reuters.
Prosecutors described Benzema as an intermediary who in 2015 tried to persuade his French teammate Mathieu Valbuena to pay blackmailers who threatened to publish a sex tape – an allegation that Benzema has long denied.
At the trial, Valbuena said Benzema approached him and told him he had a friend who “can solve your problem,” the Associated Press reported. In a bugged appeal in court, Benzema is overheard speaking to Karim Zenati, his co-defendant and old friend, informing him of the exchange with Valbuena.
Benzema was withdrawn from the national team after the scandal. At the time, Benzema, of Algerian descent, said racism contributed to the decision.
But now Benzema is back in the France team. He played this year in the European Championship.
And it doesn’t look like the court outcome threatens his place on the team. The French Football Federation did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment, but reported to other news outlets last month that a guilty verdict would not automatically result in Benzema being removed from the list. .
NPR was unable to reach Real Madrid immediately. Benzema is set to play in his club’s Champions League game on Wednesday against Sheriff Tiraspol.
Valbuena’s career has been less successful in the years since the scandal broke. He currently plays for Olympiacos, a Greek team. But he did not return to the France team.
“He suffered from sporting prejudices that are difficult to repair,” his lawyer Didier Domat told the AP. “We are convinced that his victim status has been recognized.”