French court says Benzema investigation in Valbuena sex tape case was unfair
PARIS (AP) – France's highest court has ruled that an investigation of Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema in a blackmail case, linked to a sex tape involving his France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, was carried out unfairly by prosecutors.
Benzema is facing preliminary charges of conspiracy and complicity in an attempted blackmail scheme intended to extort money from Valbuena in exchange for the sex tape. Benzema denies any wrongdoing.
The Cour de Cassation didn't clear Benzema, but it ruled that investigators had broken rules and used unfair methods to try and prove the existence of a blackmail scam.
It noted that, acting on the instructions of the prosecutor, an investigator had posed as a representative of Valbuena and that, using a pseudonym, he had prompted the holders of the sex tape to try and claim money from the player.
As a result of the ruling, the whole investigation against Benzema could be annulled. The court ordered that the case be referred to a different, lower court which will now have to rule on the case, in accordance with its decision.
Benzema's lawyer, Patrice Spinosi, welcomed the ruling.
''The case is not over, but the new appeals court should logically rule that the whole proceedings were unfair and bring down almost all the case, at least certainly for Karim Benzema,'' Spinosi told FranceInfo web channel.
The investigators who charged Benzema believe he was approached by a childhood friend in 2015 to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers. Instead, Valbuena informed the police. After he refused to conduct the negotiations himself, investigators had the idea of setting a trap for the sex tape holders.
The filing of preliminary charges against Benzema led French soccer officials to leave him out of their squad for last year's European Championship–which was staged in France–in the interests of team harmony and avoiding media intrusion.