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PARIS – Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema goes to trial in France on Wednesday accused of complicity in the attempted blackmail of former international teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape.
Investigators allege that Benzema encouraged Valbuena to pay a group of suspected blackmailers to keep the sexually explicit tape out of public view.
Benzema has denied wrongdoing and his lawyer has called the case against the player “absurd”.
Benzema and Valbuena lost their place in the French national team in the wake of the scandal, dubbed the “sex video affair.”
Benzema was called up to France’s roster for this year’s Euro Cup and the test comes at a time when the 33-year-old forward is shining on the pitch.
Prosecutors say Valbuena received a first call threatening to expose the sex tape in early June 2015 while he was at the French squad’s training center in Clairefontaine, west of Paris.
The anonymous caller said he wanted to “settle” with Valbuena and told him to name an intermediary.
Prosecutors allege that Benzema was recruited by the alleged blackmailers to convince his teammate to pay.
Benzema is accused of complicity in attempted blackmail. All four co-defendants face charges of attempted blackmail.
The Real Madrid forward faces up to five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($ 87,240.00) if convicted.
Benzema may not attend the first day of the test after traveling to Ukraine, where he played in his club’s Champions League group stage match against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.