Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is on trial in France for involvement in an attempt to blackmail fellow player Matthew Valbuena over a sex tape found on his phone.
Benzema had ridiculed the charge, calling it a “trick” and had never before appeared in court at Versailles.
The facts of the case date back to June 2015, when the two players were at a training camp in France.
The story shook the French football community. Both players lost their positions in the team.
Benzema, 33, later returned to the French team and scored a goal on Tuesday in the winning match for Real Madrid in Kiev in the Champions League.
He is on trial with four other men accused of trying to blackmail Valbuena, who told the court Wednesday that football is his life.
And journalists quoted him as saying: “I knew that if he published that video, it would make things difficult for the French team.”
The sex tape case began in 2015 when Valbuena, now 37, asked a man in Marseille, Axel Angot, to download the contents of his mobile phone onto a new device.
Angut found pornographic material on the phone, and he and another defendant in the case, Mustafa Zawawi, were charged with trying to blackmail Valbuena by threatening to publish the tape.
Zawawi said in a press statement that he shared the tape with other people, but denied that there was an attempt to blackmail for the purpose of obtaining money.
When the player goes to the police, a secret agent named Luca is given the task of negotiating on his behalf.
The defendants are accused of having contact with a childhood friend of Benzema, Karim Zenati.
Then, in October 2015, the Real Madrid striker went to his colleague, the French player, in his room at the national team training camp.
Benzema said he only tried to help his teammate get rid of the scandalous video, warning him: “Be careful, Matthew, they are a very big gang.”
Then he was offered to introduce him to someone he could trust, and that person was his childhood friend Zenati.
By this time the police had begun listening in on their phone calls and had recorded a call by Benzema telling his childhood friend: “He doesn’t take us seriously.”
According to the accounts, Zenati replied: “We are here to solve this problem. If he does not want that, he will have to deal with predatory fish.”
Meanwhile, Valbuena is said to have told his family about the video clip on his phone.
Valbuena, when giving his testimony at the start of the trial, said he had never considered paying to stop the video’s release.
Defense attorneys have gone on to say that the police erred by using an undercover agent, and that the agent pushed the defendants to ask for money. But French courts did not take into account lawyers’ objections to police tactics in 2018.
The trial will continue until the end of this week, when the four defendants face charges of attempted extortion while Benzema is accused of involvement in the attempt.
The maximum penalty for the attempted blackmail is five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros.