Tuesday 25 October 2016

No hard feelings between Valbuena and Benzema over alleged sex tape blackmail

Published 11/11/2015 | 08:03

Karim Benzema, right, with Mathieu Valbuena. (AP)
Karim Benzema, right, with Mathieu Valbuena. (AP)

Mathieu Valbuena feels "no particular animosity" towards his France colleague Karim Benzema, who has been charged in the sex tape blackmail affair involving the midfielder, Valbuena's lawyer said on Tuesday.

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"There was no animosity before and there still is none," Didier Domat, representing Valbuena, said as he called for "prudence" after extracts were released to the press of telephone recordings of Benzema discussing the affair.

"One cannot remain indifferent to what one sees in the press. Certainly if we discover that all this is true, he [Valbuena] will not be his friend," continued the lawyer for the 31-year-old Lyon player.

Benzema, 27, was last Thursday charged with complicity to blackmail and conspiring to commit a criminal act, charges that carry a prison sentence of at least five years, in relation to a sex tape featuring Valbuena.

He was also banned from meeting Valbuena, whose current club Lyon is where where Benzema began his career.

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French radio station Europe 1 on Tuesday reported extracts of investigators' transcriptions of a phone conversation on October 6 between Benzema and one of his friends, who is presented as an intermediary for the presumed blackmailers.

In the extract, Benzema discusses with the friend, Karim Zenati, an exchange he had with Valbuena the previous day during a France squad get-together.

He is said to have told Valbuena: "If you want the video to be destroyed, my friend will come to see you in Lyon. Speak to him.

"You can see everything. As far as I am concerned you can do as you wish. If you don't want to, it's your life, I warned you."

Domat added: "We will not make assumptions until we have studied the case."

Valbuena will soon give evidence to the examining magistrate in Versaille, near Paris, as investigations continue in the case.

Meanwhile, Benzema's agent Sylvain Cormier on Tuesday denied that his client was in any way involved in blackmailing Valbuena and said the Real Madrid striker would make an official complaint about police inquiry leaks.

"The press have information from an ongoing investigation. Who is giving them that information and why?" asked Cormier in a statement.

Benzema's lawyer also deplored that "snippets of conversation [were] carefully selected to be shown to the public".

"During the conversation...Karim Benzema declared that he had told Mathieu Valbuena not to pay. This declaration apparently does not interest anybody."

Both players were left out of the France squad for the friendly matches against Germany and England by coach Didier Deschamps.

The blackmail case began in June, when Valbuena lodged a complaint with police after being telephoned by an unknown person who said he had the sex tape in his possession.

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