French football star Karim Benzema under formal investigation in sex-tape blackmail case
Real Madrid star Karim Benzema has been placed under formal investigation in connection with a sex tape blackmail plot involving another player.
The French footballer was held in police custody overnight and appeared before judge in Versailles today as investigators trying to find out if he played a role in the extortion attempt targeting fellow French international Mathieu Valbuena, and if he tried to blackmail the Lyon player.
Three people have been handed preliminary charges over the case since October.
Benzema spent about 24 hours in custody at a police station in Versailles after being summoned on Wednesday morning in the city on the western edge of Paris.
Sources in France say the player has admitted involvement.
In the same case, former France international Djibril Cisse was briefly detained last month after being suspected of conspiracy to blackmail, a charge with a maximum prison sentence of five years. The ex-Liverpool, Sunderland and QPR striker, who has since retired from football, was released without seeing a judge.
Benzema's lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, said his client contacted the judge in charge of the case as soon as his name was mentioned in the media last month to let him know he was willing to answer questions from detectives.
"He wants to put an end as soon as possible to this controversy that rose from a case he did not take part in," Mr Cormier said.
The case started earlier this year when Valbuena decided to take legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to be in possession of an incriminating sex tape he would exchange for money.
It is not the first time Benzema has faced problems off the field.
Five years ago, preliminary charges were filed against Franck Ribery and Benzema for soliciting an under-age prostitute. Both players were questioned as part of a probe into a suspected network of prostitutes that operated out of a nightclub on Paris's Champs-Elysees. The case lasted three years before they were acquitted.