A football star in the courtroom: Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, candidate for the Golden Ball in the wake of his performances for the France team, finds himself facing justice from Wednesday, in "the case of the sextape ".
The 33-year-old will be tried for three days at the Versailles Criminal Court with four other defendants for their participation in this case, the victim of which is the former teammate of Benzema in selection, Mathieu Valbuena, 37 years old.
Will he be present at the hearing the day after a Champions League match in Ukraine?
Contacted by AFP, Benzema's lawyers did not respond.
Valbuena, who wears the colors of Olympiakos Piraeus (Greece), will be present at the trial, confirmed his lawyer Paul-Albert Iweins.
During the investigation, Benzema's defense had called for a confrontation between the two protagonists, a request rejected by the examining magistrate.
In this case, it's all about interpretation.
Benzema pleads friendly advice to Valbuena while the latter sees it as tortious pressure.
On the evening of October 6, 2015, Benzema went to see Valbuena in her room during a rally for the Blues at the Clairefontaine training center (Yvelines).
He explains to his teammate that he can "present someone he can trust", according to the referral order consulted by AFP, to help him "manage" the possible publication of a compromising video.
"Attention Math, they are big, big thugs", warns the Madrid player.
A way to "help" his teammate he later explained, while Valbuena confessed, he had "the impression of being taken for an idiot".
After this conservation, Benzema calls his childhood friend Karim Zenati, an intermediary of the alleged blackmailers, and explains to him: "he does not take us seriously".
An "us" which, according to the prosecution, shows that Benzema "includes" in the blackmail enterprise.
On the phone, the two men, tapped, mock Valbuena, Benzema predicting that he will "be thrown tomatoes" if the video is published.
Karim Benzema celebrates his goal, that of the equalizer against Spain in the final of the League of Nations in Milan, October 10, 2021 FRANCK FIFE AFP / Archives
"We are there to fix it, if he does not want, he is doing things with the piranhas", loose Karim Zenati, who will explain in front of the investigators only to have wanted to warn Valbuena of the existence of this video.
"They are going to piss on him", answers Benzema who, in another conversation with his friend will qualify his teammate of "tarlouze".
A qualifier "friendly", he explained later.
Karim Zenati, "in no way lent his support, in conscience, to an offense of blackmail", explains to AFP his lawyer Emmanuel Mercinier, who hopes that "the court will ignore the celebrity of the protagonists and the agitation media that follows ".
- "Nickel-plated feet" -
The maximum penalty - theoretically - incurred by the former glory of Olympique Lyonnais, prosecuted for complicity in attempted blackmail, is five years' imprisonment and a fine of 70,000 euros.
At his side on the dock, four other men are accused of attempted blackmail.
Mathieu Valbuena in training with Olympiakos at the Stade Vélodrome, on November 30, 2020, the day before the match against Marseille in the Champions League NICOLAS TUCAT AFP / Archives
One of them, Axel Angot, is also being prosecuted for breach of trust.
It is with this man, who gravitates in the middle of Marseille football that everything starts.
In 2014, Valbuena gave him his phone to transfer his data to a new device.
Axel Angot then comes across a video of a sexual nature of the midfielder, spent at Olympique de Marseille and Lyon.
With a friend, Mustapha Zouaoui, he intends to put pressure on Valbuena to monetize the non-broadcast of the video.
The two men go through the former international Djibril Cissé, who refuses to put them in contact with Valbuena and warns the latter of the existence of the sextape.
Karim Benzema (hood) with his advice at the end of a hearing about the sextape at the parquet floor of Versailles, near Paris, November 5, 2015 MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE AFP / Archives
They then ask Younes Houass, who knows the world of football well, to intervene.
It is he who contacts Valbuena before being put in touch with "Luka", an undercover policeman who acts as an intermediary for the complainant.
Then follows, according to one of the lawyers in the case, a "dialogue of the deaf" between the two, Younes Houass not making any request for money and not even in possession of the sextape.
Several times it is "Luka" who revives Houass, which, according to the defense, is a provocation to the offense.
An argument that will ultimately be invalidated, after long legal twists and turns, by the Court of Cassation.
Faced with the Houass-Luka impasse, the alleged blackmailers, "real nickel-plated feet", still according to a lawyer in the case, then dismiss Younes Houass from their project and contact Karim Zenati, Benzema's childhood friend.
The latter then comes into play, which is now worth him to appear in court.
© 2021 AFPKeywords: karim benzema, france 24 benzema, mathieu valbuena, versailles, afp, sextape, case, team, performances, wake, men, defendants, courtroom, football star, justice