The Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema will face trial for his alleged involvement in an attempt to blackmail his former France teammate Matthieu Valbuena in a “sex tape” scandal, the Versailles prosecutor’s office said on Thursday.
Benzema is suspected of having pressured his former national teammate to pay blackmailers who threatened to reveal an intimate video in which Valbuena featured. He will stand trial on the charge of conspiracy to attempt blackmail, the prosecutor’s office said. A date for the trial has not yet been set.
The 33-year-old Benzema has been banned from the national team since November 2015 because of his suspected involvement in the scandal, despite consistent showings with Madrid.
The investigators who charged Benzema believe 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 in the case. Benzema denies any wrongdoing. “This decision is as much absurd as it was predictable,” Benzema’s lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, told the Associated Press, denouncing a perceived “persecution” against the player.
When the story broke, Benzema faced a deluge of criticism and Manuel Valls, the prime minister at the time, said the former Lyon player had “no place” in the national team.
Benzema has not played for France since scoring twice in a 4-0 win against Armenia in October 2015, taking his tally to 27 goals in 81 internationals. He has more than 250 goals for Real Madrid and has won four Champions League titles with the Spanish club.