Benzema’s blackmail case heads for possible final hearing

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema / AFP PHOTO / Behrouz MEHRI

The Paris Appeal Court will re-examine the case against Real Madrid star Karim Benzema for his alleged role in the blackmail of fellow international Mathieu Valbuena on October 4, sources told AFP on Friday.

The hearing has been awaited since July 2017 when France’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, annulled a Versailles Court of Appeal decision to send Benzema to trial for allegedly attempting to blackmail Valbuena over a sex tape and ordered the Paris court to review the original ruling.

The affair began in June 2015 when Valbuena received a call from a blackmailer who threatened to release an intimate video.

Valbuena contacted the police who assigned an undercover officer to the case.

Investigators accused Benzema of acting as an intermediary between the presumed blackmailers and Lyon midfielder Valbuena.

Benzema was dropped from the French side before Euro 2016 and has not been recalled.

Benzema and three of the other suspects had asked for the case against them to be dropped.

They say police used “dishonest” methods by posing as a friend of Valbuena’s in a telephone conversation with one of the accused and urging the payment of a ransom.

An appeal to the Court of Appeal in Versailles in December 2016 failed, but the Court of Cassation then annulled that decision and instructed the Paris Court of Appeal to hear the case again.

The Court of Cassation questioned the legal validity of the recordings of phone conversations which were central to the case against Benzema and the other suspects.

The case would be “greatly weakened” but not necessarily completely annulled, said one source close to the case.

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