Benzema pleads ‘misunderstanding’ in sextape blackmail case
The pre-recorded interview comes in the wake of comments from French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday saying only players with exemplary records should represent France at Euro 2016.
“It’s all a huge misunderstanding. All I was doing was trying to help. There’s nothing to any of it, no blackmail or demands for money,” Benzema told a judge in early November, according to a Le Monde article published on Wednesday.
The scandal is a serious distraction to France before they host Euro 2016 next year — Benzema has been banned from meeting Valbuena and neither was called up for France’s games against Germany and England recently.
In sporting terms Benzema is seen as France’s top striker, but Les Blues have a wealth of other attacking options and a record of leaving trouble-makers out of squads for international tournaments.
The blackmail case began in June, when Valbuena lodged a complaint with police after being telephoned by a man who said he had the sex tape.
Four men, including a friend of Benzema, Karim Zenati, have been charged and detained over the blackmail using the stolen sex-tape.
Benzema is alleged to have approached Valbuena about the images at a France national training camp on October 5.
The former Lyon star says he had no need of money nor did one of the accused, Karim Zenati, as he was employed in one of Benzema’s companies.
A police telephone tap however on Benzema and his calls to Zenati cast doubts on their attitude. “I’m mad with myself for having talked that way on the phone, we went too far,” Benzema said of comments that appeared to mock Valbuena.
The victim of the affair, Valbuena, in his first public comments told Le Monde last week he was “very, very, very disappointed” by Benzema.
Benzema’s lawyer Alain Jakubowicz told Wednesday’s le Parisien daily newspaper that the player would use Wednesday’s tv interview to apologise to Valbuena for those unfriendly remarks.
The lawyer also used the Le Parisien to hit out at the French prime minister’s comments over his clients potential exclusion from the France squad asking : “Is this a prime minister’s words or those of a Barcelona fan talking about a Real Madrid player.”
Valls hails from the Catalonia region and was in hot water himself in June for using a French government jet to fly himself and his son to Berlin to the Champions League final featuring Barcelona.
Jakubowicz later told RTL radio he would sue Le Monde for contempt of court for having revealed details of Benzema’s testimony, adding the revelations would aid the player’s defence.