Benzema in for trial on sextape

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Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema goes on trial in France tomorrow accused of collusion in the attempted blackmail of former international teammate Mathieu Valbuena in a case known as the “sex tape affair”.

Benzema, 33, stands accused of helping a group of alleged blackmailers to approach Valbuena in an attempt to extort money. Four other men are also on trial.

The case cost both Benzema and 37-year-old Valbuena their place in the French national team, although Benzema was restored to the lineup for this year’s European championship.

The case centres on the role that Benzema is suspected of playing in the murky affair six years ago, which started when Valbuena handed his smartphone to Axel Angot, a man connected to footballing circles in the southern port city of Marseille, with the request to transfer its contents to a new device.

Angot, now on trial for breach of trust, came across sexually explicit footage on the phone involving Valbuena.

Prosecutors said he then explored ways – together with a friend, Mustapha Zouaoui – to approach Valbuena and threaten publication of the footage unless he paid them.

Valbuena received several calls in June 2015 threatening exposure of the footage, which he reported to police.

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The blackmailers then went to former French international Djibril Cisse, who refused to act as their messenger, instead warning Valbuena of what was brewing.

Cisse, who played for Premier League club Liverpool during his career, was initially charged in the case, but later cleared.

What followed is an imbroglio involving several shadowy middlemen, one of whom turned out to be an undercover agent called “Luka” placed by police who were trying to get proof before taking action against the protagonists.

Eventually the presumed blackmailers went to one of Benzema’s old friends, Karim Zenati, who prosecutors said enlisted Benzema’s help to reach Valbuena.

The sex tape case caused Benzema to be exiled from France’s national football team for years – a decision he called ‘racist’ – but the striker returned to “Les Bleus” this year in time for the European championship.

France coach Didier Deschamps said this month that “he’s no longer the same person, he’s matured”.

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