Real Madrid star Karim Benzema found guilty in sex tape scandal
France and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has been found guilty of complicity in the attempted blackmail of Mathieu Valbuena, relating to a sex tape involving his former international teammate.
On the same day the 33-year-old scored in Real Madrid's 3-0 Champions League win over Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol to help his side progress to the knockout stages, Benzema was sentenced to a one-year suspended jail term after the guilty verdict.
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He was also fined 75,000 euros ($A104,000).
Benzema, who had denied any wrongdoing, was not present in court during the hearings as he continued to play for Real Madrid.
The French star's lawyer said Benzema would appeal against the verdict.
"This outcome in no way corresponds with the reality of events," lawyer Antoine Vey told reporters afterwards.
Real Madrid did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors had argued Benzema had encouraged Valbuena to pay a suspected group of blackmailers in order to keep the sexually explicit tape out of the public eye.
They said Valbuena received the first of several phone calls threatening to expose the tape in June 2015. Valbuena told the court it was clear the caller wanted money and that the blackmail attempt left him fearing for his career and place in the national squad.
During the trial, Valbuena testified that Benzema spoke to him about the sex tape, telling him “there’s a video, it’s hot,” when they were together at France’s Clairefontaine training camp in October 2015. Benzema also said that he had a good friend who could help and “can solve your problem,” Valbuena testified.
Court heard Karim Benzema wiretap conversations
Benzema was recruited by the alleged blackmailers to encourage Valbuena to pay as his teammate stalled, the prosecution had added.
Although Benzema “never spoke to me about money,” Valbuena said he understood that he would have to pay for the friend’s assistance.
In a subsequent phone call wiretapped by police, Benzema talked with Zenati about the conversation he had with Valbuena. Benzema and Zenati had known each other since childhood. When Zenati was released from prison in 2013, following robbery and drug convictions, Benzema hired him as an assistant.
In the wiretapped call, which was played in court, the pair chuckled about Benzema’s talk with Valbuena. The Madrid star said he told Valbuena that “if you want the video to be destroyed,” he should contact Zenati, without involving police, lawyers or others.
“I gave my word that there are no copies,” Benzema said in the call.
Valbuena's lawyer, Didier Domat, said the ruling came as a relief for his client. Unlike his former teammate, Valbuena has not played for France since the scandal broke.
“He has suffered sports prejudices that are difficult to repair," Domat said. “We are satisfied that his status as a victim has been recognised.”
Benzema and Valbuena both lost their places in the national team following the scandal, dubbed the "sex tape affair".
Benzema, 33, who has played more than 90 times for his country, was recalled to the France squad for this year's European Championship.
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