French striker Karim Benzema, currently contracted by Real Madrid, spent the night in jail Wednesday after handing himself over to the Versailles Judiciary Police offices in Paris around 9 p.m.
According to French newspaper Le Parisien, the player remained in police custody overnight and was charged on Thursday morning. Benzema has now been freed pending further investigation but was placed under judicial supervision. He is allowed to fly back to Madrid for training, but he is not allowed to see the victim or anyone else charged in the case.
The scandal involves fellow French international Mathieu Valbuena, 31, according to the French prosecutor’s office. Benzema, 27, has now been charged with “complicity in an attempt to blackmail” and conspiring to commit a criminal act. He faces five years in jail if found guilty.
— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) November 5, 2015
(Translation: Karim Benzema was indicted on Thursday)
Benzema admitted involvement in the alleged sex tape blackmail plot against Valbuena, as reported by Eurosports, but he insists he too was a victim of the blackmailers. Benzema isn’t the first international superstar to be heard in this case; last month, former France striker Djibril Cissé was also taken into custody and later released.
The police investigation, which came to light in October with Cissé’s arrest, involves Lyon midfielder Valbuena, who was allegedly asked for money in return for a tape not being published. According to reports published last month by Mundo Deportivo, Valbuena was contacted several times by people claiming to be in the possession of a video depicting him and someone else having sex.
According to various sources, the blackmailers sought anywhere from €50,000 to €100,000, but Valbuena refused to pay and contacted the authorities in the summer, which is when the investigation started.
Cissé was one of four people to be heard by the police, and after he convinced the investigators he was in no way involved in the scandal, Cissé was released. Valbuena even apologized on Facebook to his old friend, saying he didn’t suspect his involvement at all.
Translation: “I am truly sorry that my friend Djibril Cissé was taken into police custody recently. As far as I am concerned, I have no complain about Djibril who has always acted like a friend, trying to help me. I have no statement to make regarding this case, which is currently being investigated by police. I simply want to thank the police services for their efficient treatment of this case.”
As soon as Benzema was taken into questioning this week, his lawyer made a statement that his client had done nothing wrong and was happy to help the course of justice. However, it later came out that Benzema was aware of the tape’s existence and had discussed it with Valbuena during a meeting of the French team at Clairefontaine in October. Investigators are now trying to determine whether Benzema was involved in the blackmailing or simply offering friendly advice to his teammate.
According to BBC News, sources told French media that the blackmailers also contacted a relative of Benzema’s in order to involve him in their scam.
Both Valbuena and Benzema have been left out of Didier Deschamps’ French squad and will not play against Germany or England in the upcoming games. Deschamps refused to comment on the case but said Benzema would have missed those games regardless because of his injury.
— Angel Ghersi (@gelito_gt) November 5, 2015
Benzema and Valbuena are good friends and teammates in the national France team — but will they be able to play together again after this ordeal?
[Featured image by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images]