Paris, Nov 24 (IANS) A French court on Wednesday handed France and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema a one-year suspended sentence and fined him 75,000 euros after he was found guilty of complicity in the attempted blackmail of his former team-mate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape.
The 33-year old Benzema was one of five people put on trial last month over an attempt to extort Valbuena. Four of his co-defendants in the trial were also found guilty on Wednesday and were handed jail sentences ranging from 18 months suspended to two-and-a-half years in prison.
Benzema was not in court in the Paris suburb of Versailles for the verdict. However, his lawyers present there also said they would appeal his conviction.
“The reaction is ultimately an angry one to this judgment which is perfectly contradictory,” his lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, told reporters outside court.
Notably, the case dates back to June 2015, when both Benzema and Valbuena were at a French training camp. At the camp, Benzema put pressure on Valbuena to pay off the blackmailers, whom he had conspired with to act as an intermediary, the prosecutors said.
However, Benzema has always denied the allegations and insisted he was only trying to help Valbuena get rid of the compromising video, a BBC report said.
Both players had lost their national team places after that scandal and it also stunned the football community in France.
Benzema made a surprise comeback to the French national team in May this year. The French football federation last month also said that a guilty verdict would not necessarily damage Benzema’s position in the national team.
Since being called back by France manager Didier Deschamps, Benzema has been in prolific form, scoring nine times in 13 games for his country. He’s also scored ten goals this season for his club, Real Madrid, who are yet to comment on the verdict.
He is also expected to start for Real Madrid on Wednesday night when they play FC Sheriff Tiraspol in the Champions League.