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French footballer Benzema sentenced to one year in jail with suspended sentence

FILE PHOTO: Footballer Karim Benzema warms up prior to the qualifying match for the World Cup of the French national team against Kazakhstan at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, on November 13, 2021. REUTERS / Gonzalo Fuentes

VERSAILLES, France, Nov 24 (Reuters) -French national team and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema was found guilty on Wednesday of complicity in the attempt to blackmail a former teammate for a sex video and was sentenced to a year in jail with suspended sentence, so you will not have to go to prison.

The Versailles court also fined him 75,000 euros ($ 84,170) and ordered him to pay his former teammate Mathieu Valbuena 80,000 euros to cover court costs and 150,000 euros for damages along with the other three defendants.

Benzema’s attorney said he will appeal the verdict.

Benzema, who had denied committing any crime, did not appear in court. He is scheduled to play for Real Madrid against Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova this Wednesday.

“This result does not correspond at all to the reality of the events,” Benzema’s lawyer, Antoine Vey, told reporters.

Real Madrid declined to comment.

Earlier this month, the president of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, said that Benzema would not be excluded from the national team if he was convicted and imposed the conditional sentence requested by the Prosecutor’s Office.

“The coach will always be responsible for his selection and Benzema will not be left out due to a possible judicial sanction,” Le Graet told Le Parisien news outlet.

The Prosecutor’s Office had argued that Benzema encouraged Valbuena to pay an alleged group of blackmailers in order to prevent the dissemination of a recording with explicit sexual content.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Valbuena received the first of several phone calls threatening to reveal the tape in June 2015. Valbuena told the court that it was clear that the caller wanted money and that the blackmail attempt made him fear for his career and his place in the national team.

Benzema was recruited by the alleged blackmailers to encourage Valbuena to pay when his teammate showed doubts, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Benzema had shown no goodwill toward Valbuena, the judges said in their written judgment. Benzema had “deliberately aided the perpetrators of the attempted blackmail of Valbuena.”

Benzema and Valbuena lost their place in the national team in the wake of the scandal.

The 33-year-old Benzema, who has played more than 90 times for his country, was called up to the French team for this year’s Euro Cup.

Among the defendants along with Benzema were his childhood friend Karim Zenati, who acted as an intermediary, and Mustapha Zouaoui, one of the alleged architects of the scam. All four defendants were found guilty in connection with the blackmail attempt.

(Reporting by Layli Foroudi; editing by Richard Lough and Nick Macfie; translated by Tomás Cobos)

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