'Felt in danger': Explosive details heard in football sex tape trial

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On the right is Karim Benzema alongside a photo of former France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
Karim Benzema (right) is accused of being complicit in the alleged extortion of former teammate Mathieu Valbuena, via a sex tape. Pic: Getty

Former France international Mathieu Valbuena has told a French court that he "felt in danger" after being targeted in an alleged blackmail attempt involving a sex tape.

The scandal has seen Valbuena's former teammate Karim Benzema go on trial, however, the Real Madrid striker denies the allegations that he was complicit in any extortion attempts.

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Benzema is accused of complicity in an attempt to extort money from Valbuena over a video that was copied from his smartphone in 2015.

The affair rocked the French national team and led to the 33-year-old Madrid star being cast out of the side for five-and-a-half years before making a surprise comeback this year.

Valbuena, who was also excluded from the team over the row, told the court at the start of the trial that he feared for his career when he realised he was being blackmailed.

Benzema, who scored the fifth and final goal to take Real Madrid to a 5-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stage of the Champions League in Kiev on Tuesday night, did not attend the proceedings in the Paris suburb of Versailles.

If convicted he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of 70,000 euros ($AUD 108,000).

Four other people, including the two alleged masterminds of the blackmail attempt, are being tried alongside him.

The murky affair began when Valbuena, 37, handed his smartphone to Axel Angot, a man connected to footballing circles in the southern port city of Marseille where Valbuena had previously played.

Angot's job was to transfer the contents of the phone to a new device.

However, Angot came across sexually explicit footage on the phone which he and a friend, Mustapha Zouaoui, allegedly attempted to exploit.

Prosecutors have alleged that Benzema was among a number of intermediaries trying to assist the pair in the alleged extortion attempt.

Valbuena told the court he struggled to believe it when former teammate Djibril Cisse contacted him in May 2015 to tell him that compromising footage of him had emerged.

When Cisse - who had been the victim of a similar blackmail attempt - described contents of the footage that he'd received on WhatsApp, Valbuena said it filled him with grave concerns.

"I felt in danger, my first reflex was to file a criminal complaint," Valbuena told the court.

In this picture, football player Mathieu Valbuena (R) addresses media representatives inside a a French court.
French football player Mathieu Valbuena (R) addresses media representatives next to lawyer Paul Albert Iweins (C) inside a a French court. Pic: Getty

The former Marseille player, who agreed to work with an undercover police officer on the affair, said he also feared for his place in the national side.

"I knew if the video came out things would be difficult for me in the French team, as was proven to be the case later."

After Cisse's tip-off, Valbuena received a call from the first man accused of acting as a middle-man, Younes Houass.

Houass, who is charged in the case, told the court he did not discuss money with Valbuena.

He said the player "did not seem to understand" the gravity of his predicament and that he advised him to seek advice from someone he could trust.

Court hears of Karim Benzema's alleged involvement 

With Houass struggling to make headway, Angot and Zouaoui then turned to one of Benzema's old friends, Karim Zenati, who prosecutors say then enlisted Benzema's help.

On October 6, 2015, Benzema went to see Valbuena in his room at the French national team's training centre at Clairefontaine, west of Paris.

He told his teammate that he could introduce him to a "trustworthy person" to help him "manage" the possible publication of the video.

In what Benzema later claimed was an attempt to help his teammate out of a difficult situation, he told him: "Be careful, 'Math', these are very, very heavy criminals."

Pictured here, Karim Benzema celebrates a Real Madrid goal against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates a goal against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. Pic: Getty

Benzema then called Zenati and told him in a conversation wiretapped by police: "He's not taking us seriously."

Prosecutors say that the word "us" proves that Benzema saw himself as part of the blackmail scheme.

In court, Zenati on Wednesday insisted that he never wanted to involve Benzema in a blackmail plot.

Benzema argues that the undercover police officer used dishonest methods to draw him into the affair.

He complained bitterly about being dropped from the national team, accusing France coach Didier Deschamps of a "racist" decision linked to his north African origins.

Since returning to the squad for this year's European Championship he has put in some impressive performances which have given him a new-found popularity with French fans.

with AFP

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