France and Real Madrid striker, Kareem Benzema has been found guilty, fined €75,000 (£63,000; $84,000) and handed a one-year suspended jail term for his role in a s_x tape blackmail case. Kareem Benzema was found guilty of attempting to blackmail fellow France teammate, Mathieu Valbuena with the tape in 2015.
In June of that year, Mathieu Valbuena received several phone calls from men threatening to publish the video if he did not pay them tens of thousands of euros. Mathieu Valbuena refused and instead filed a criminal complaint.
After several unsuccessful attempts, the blackmailers were suspected of having contacted Karim Zenati, in hopes that he would push Kareem Benzema to speak with Mathieu Valbuena and encourage him to pay, the court was told.
Kareem Benzema and Matthieu Valbuena lost their place in the Les Bleus set up as a result of the case until recently when Didier Deschamps included the 33-year-old forward, Kareem Benzema in his squad for Euro 2020.
The case started at a training camp where both players were attending. At the camp, Kareem Benzema put pressure on Matthieu Valbuena to pay off the blackmailers, whom he had conspired with to act as an intermediary, prosecutors said.
Kareem Benzema has always denied the allegations and insisted he was only trying to help Matthieu Valbuena get rid of the compromising video. The Versailles court decision is unlikely to affect Benzema’s immediate sporting future.
Kareem Benzema is regarded as one of the favorites to win the Ballon d’Or award on Nov. 29 in Paris following an impressive season with Madrid. French federation president Noel Le Great has already said Kareem Benzema would be allowed to keep playing with France even if found guilty. Kareem Benzema laywer, Sylvain Cormier has said he will appeal the case.
Kareem Benzema, who denied wrongdoing, didn’t attend the trial in Versailles last month and was absent for the verdict. The four other defendants were also found guilty and did not appear at the court Wednesday.
Prosecutors had asked that Benzema be fined €75,000 (£63,000; $84,000), the maximum allowed on the charge, and be given a suspended 10-month jail term if found guilty.
Four other defendants were tried on the charges of attempted blackmail, including Karim Zenati, one of Kareem Benzema’s childhood friends, and three men who acted as murky intermediaries and occasional fixers behind the scenes of soccer’s cash-infused world. They were also found guilty.
Karim Zenati was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Of the others, two were given jail terms, of two and a half years, and one received eighteen months suspended sentence.
On top of criminal fines, the defendants were also ordered to pay €250,000, or about $281,000, in damages to Valbuena. They are jointly responsible for €150,000 of that total, with Benzema ordered to pay another €80,000 individually and the other defendants a further €5,000 each.
Kareem Benzema was charged with complicity in the blackmail attempt over a s_x tape thought to have been stolen from Valbuena’s mobile phone.
After preliminary charges in November 2015, Kareem Benzema was dropped from France’s national team by coach Didier Deschamps. That resulted in Benzema missing the 2016 European Championship and also the 2018 World Cup which was won by France.
Didier Deschamps recalled Kareem Benzema ahead of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament and has since fielded him regularly.
What do you think about the blackmailing act of Kareem Benzema and four others, or is Kareem Benzema innocent?
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