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The Real Madrid forward was found guilty of conspiring to blackmail a former French national team colleague over a sextape. The legal saga saw Benzema exiled from the national team for nearly six years.
Karim Benzema on Wednesday was convicted of conspiring to blackmail former French national team colleague Mathieu Valbuena with a sextape.
A court in Versailles found Benzema, 33, guilty of "complicity" in the affair in which blackmailers attempted to extort money from Valbuena over a sex tape. The Real Madrid player was handed a 12-month suspended sentence and a €75,000 ($84,150) fine.
The verdict is the latest chapter of a legal saga that dates back to 2015 which saw Benzema exiled from the French national team for nearly six years. Benzema's lawyers on Wednesday told reporters that they intend to appeal the verdict.
Benzema was one of five people put on trial last month over the blackmail attempt involving a sexually explicit video stolen from Valbuena's phone. The French forward was not at the three-day trial for professional reasons — he was training with Real Madrid ahead of a big La Liga clash against Barcelona.
Prosecutors said another defendant found the video on Valbuena's phone after he had been asked to transfer the data to a new mobile device. The defendant and another tried to then use the video to extort money from Valbuena, who was playing for Olympique Lyon and France at the time.
Benzema was not accused of being behind the extortion attempt but rather conspiring with suspected blackmailers to apply pressure on Valbuena. The Real Madrid star has claimed he only wanted to help when he approached his France teammate in October 2015 offering to find someone to "manage" the issue.
No money was discussed, but Valbuena has described Benzema's tone as "insistent." Testifying at the trial, Valbuena said the affair left him "frightened" and fearful for his career.
The case lad major consequences for both Benzema and Valbuena. Benzema did not play for the French national team again until the European Championship earlier this year. Valbuena never suited up for the national team again.
Wednesday's guilty verdict is not likely to impact Benzema's current standing in the French national team. French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet has said the veteran forward could keep his place in the national team even if convicted.
Benzema is currently having a sensational season at Real Madrid, leading the Spanish top-flight with 10 goals and seven assists through 12 games. He is among the favorites to lift the coveted Ballon d'Or, a prize given to the top male football player of the year by magazine France Football, which is set to be awarded next week.
dv (AFP, dpa)