France football star Karim Benzema found guilty over sex tape blackmail

Former France football international Mathieu Valbuena alongside former France team-mate and current international forward Karim Benzema
Mathieu Valbuena (left) and Karim Benzema in 2014. Photo: Franck Fife / AFP
A French court has handed Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema a one-year suspended sentence for complicity in a bid to blackmail his former France international squad team-mate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape.

The sentence was tougher than that sought by prosecutors against the 33-year-old player over the 2015 extortion attempt, which led Benzema to be cast out of the France team for five-and-a-half years.

READ ALSO France’s Benzema on trial over sextape blackmail plot

Benzema was not in court in the Paris suburb of Versailles for the verdict, which came hours before Real Madrid take on Sheriff Tiraspol in a Champions League game in Moldova.

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His defence team immediately announced plans for an appeal. Speaking to reporters at the courthouse, one of his lawyers, Sylvain Cormier, said he was “quite stunned by the ruling”.

The prosecution had called for the Real Madrid star, was one of five people charged over an affair that rocked the French national team, to be given a 10-month suspended sentence.

Benzema did not attend the trial last month, citing professional commitments.

The verdict is not expected to damage Benzema’s career, with French football federation president Noel Le Graet saying he could keep his place in Les Bleus even if convicted and Real Madrid also remaining supportive of their star player.

But the conviction nonetheless cast a pall over his comeback to the national team earlier this year after a years-long absence. Benzema has scored nine times since being recalled by France manager Didier Deschamps for the Euro 2020 finals – delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic – making him the fifth-highest scorer in the history of Les Bleus.

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