French prosecutors announced on Thursday that they were seeking a 10-month suspended sentence for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema for alleged complicity in an attempt to blackmail former France teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape.
Benzema is one of five people on trial for the 2015 extortion attempt, which led to him being banned from the national team for five and a half years.
The 33-year-old, who scored for Real in a Champions League match in Ukraine on Tuesday, will not attend the debates at Versailles outside of Paris.
He denied the allegations, saying he tried to help Valbuena out of the situation, not set him up.
“Benzema is not a good Samaritan who tried to help. He acted to allow the negotiators to achieve their goal and the blackmailers to obtain money, ”prosecutor Ségolène Mares told the court. She also asked the court to impose a fine of 75,000 euros.
Earlier this year, Benzema made a successful return to national squad for the European Championships, but Valbuena, who also lost his place with the Blues because of the affair, was never picked up.
Testifying on the day the trial opens on Wednesday, Valbuena said the case had left him “scared” and fearful for his career.
“I knew that if the video came out, things would be difficult for me in the France team, as was the case later. “
The alleged mastermind of the blackmail attempt, Mustapha Zouaoui, expressed regret on Thursday.
“I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” he told the midfielder, who plays for Greek club Olympiakos, in court.
Valbuena said being selected for the national team was “the holy grail for footballers” and that he “could never have imagined” a teammate involved in a conspiracy against him.
Benzema claims he was only trying to help his teammate when he approached him about the sex tape at the France team’s training center in October 2015 and told him he could help him to find someone to “handle” the video problem.
He also warned Valbuena that he was dealing with “very, very heavy criminals”.
Valbuena, 37, told the court that Benzema was “very pushy” during the conversation.
He said that although the money had not been discussed, it was clear that Benzema was not suggesting payment “in football tickets”.
Prosecutors point to a wiretap conversation in which Benzema told a friend acting as an intermediary for the alleged blackmailers that “he was not taking us seriously” as evidence that Benzema was complicit in the extortion attempt .
Benzema’s lawyer said on Wednesday the case was motivated by what he called Valbuena’s “jealousy” of his most successful former international teammate.
“His reasoning is simple: ‘Me, I was removed (from the team) and never brought back and declined in sporting terms while there is Karim Benzema who flies high in world football,” said the lawyer Sylvain Cormier to journalists in front of the courtroom.
Since his return to the French team, he has achieved impressive performances which have given him new popularity with French fans.
France coach Didier Deschamps said this month that “he’s not the same person anymore, he’s matured”.
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