Versailles (France): Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema was charged yesterday in an extortion case involving a sex tape featuring fellow French international Mathieu Valbuena and both were omitted from the national squad.
A source in the investigation said Benzema had admitted approaching Valbuena about the sex tape "on behalf of a childhood friend" who himself had been contacted by blackmailers in possession of the sex tape, who were seeking to extort money. But Benzema's lawyer said the player was innocent and "has admitted nothing at all".
Benzema (27) was charged with complicity to blackmail and conspiring to commit a criminal act, the prosecutor's office in Versailles, outside Paris, said. The charges carry a prison sentence of at least five years. He was also banned from meeting 31-year-old Valbuena, a midfielder for French club Lyon where Benzema began his career.
An hour after Benzema was charged, France coach Didier Deschamps said he was leaving both players out of his squad for friendlies against Germany and England on Nov 13 and 17 respectively.
No place in France team
Deschamps said Benzema was injured anyway and he was omitting Valbuena as he was "not in the best psychological condition due to this affair."
Benzema has scored 27 goals in 81 appearances for France and has already notched six league goals this season for Real in his seventh campaign with the Spaniards. He did not play in Real's 1-0 Champions League victory over Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
The player has told investigators he talked to Valbuena about the sex tape when the French squad met for training on October 5 ahead of friendly internationals against Armenia and Denmark. It is not clear what was said between the two, who are thought to be friends.
A source close to the investigation said: "Benzema has admitted speaking to Valbuena at the request of a childhood friend, who was approached by three blackmailers, who had the sex tape. Benzema said he agreed with his friend on what he should say so his teammate (Valbuena) would negotiate exclusively with him."
Benzema was arrested on Wednesday and spent the night in custody in Versailles before being taken to the court in a police car with tinted windows. He was released on Thursday after being charged.