Benzema to stand trial in October for alleged blackmail

PARIS (AP) — Karim Benzema will face trial in October for his alleged involvement in blackmailing former France teammate Matthieu Valbuena over a sex tape, the Versailles prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

Benzema will stand trial from Oct. 20-22 on the charge of complicity in attempted blackmail. He denies any wrongdoing.

The Real Madrid striker is suspected of pressuring Valbuena in 2015 to pay blackmailers who threatened to reveal an intimate video in which Valbuena featured.

Benzema, the most talented French forward of his generation, has been banned from the national team since November 2015 because of his suspected involvement in the scandal, despite consistent showings for Real Madrid.

The investigators who charged Benzema believed he was approached by a childhood friend that year to act as an intermediary and convince Valbuena to deal directly with the blackmailers. Instead, Valbuena informed the police.

Four other people will also stand trial over the attempted blackmail scheme.

When the story broke, Benzema faced a deluge of criticism and then Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he had “no place” in the national team. Benzema, who is of Algerian descent, had a good relationship with France coach Didier Deschamps. But he burned that bridge when he accused Deschamps of giving in to pressure from racists when the coach did not include him in the squad for the 2016 European Championship.

Benzema appeared 81 times for France, and scored 27 goals.

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