Real Madrid and France striker Karim Benzema has been charged with conspiracy to blackmail and participating in a criminal group over his involvement in a sex tape blackmail effort, the Associated Press reports.
Benzema allegedly attempted to blackmail France teammate Mathieu Valbuena by offering to withhold an “incriminating sex tape” from the public in exchange for money. The men allegedly spoke about the tape at a team meeting in October, but police are investigating whether or not Benzema attempted to extort payment from Valbuena during that conversation.
Benzema was arrested on Wednesday and remained in custody overnight. A Versailles judge handed down the charges on Thursday morning, and permitted Benzema to go free while further investigation is conducted.
Real Madrid announced that Benzema practiced Thursday evening and that the team and president Florentino Pérez have offered their full support. “The club values and recognises the professional commitment, the displays of camaraderie with his team-mates and the impeccable attitude he has shown as a core member of the first team squad for the more than six seasons that he has been a part of Real Madrid,” the statement reads.
As a provision of his release, Benzema is not allowed to contact other people involved in the case, meaning both players will not be able to participate in games for the French national team at the same time while the case is ongoing.
Benzema has recently been kept from the field as he recovers from a hamstring injury he sustained last month.
“Karim Benzema will show his good faith in this matter as soon as possible,” Sylvain Cormier, Benzema’s lawyer, said Thursday. “He was charged by a judge who notified him that he was a suspect. ... It is not a declaration of guilt.”
Benzema, 27, has also faced litigation in an underage sex case, but all charges were dropped last year.
- Erin Flynn