Real Madrid and France striker Karim Benzema has been found guilty of the attempted blackmail of Mathieu Valbuena and given a suspended one-year prison sentence and a €75,000 fine.
The case relates to the alleged recording of a sex tape on a mobile phone and Benzema was not present at the October trial, or for Wednesday morning’s tribunal.
Benzema intends to appeal the verdict, with his lawyer stating: “We are quite flabbergasted by this judgment. An appeal is necessary. He will be exonerated at the height of this appeal.”
The prosecutor had asked for a ten-month suspended sentence, with the most that could have been dished out being a five-year term in prison and €90,000 fine.
Benzema was one of five people put on trial over the extortion of compatriot Valbuena and the scandal cost the pair significant playing time for national side France.
The case originally dates all the way back to 2015 in June, when during a French training camp Benzema pressured Valbuena to pay off blackmailers with whom he had conspired with to then act as an intermediary, prosecutors said.
Benzema has always denied the allegations, insisting he only wanted to help Valbuena destroy the video.
French Football Federaton president Noel Le Graet recently said the outcome of the trial would have no bearing on Benzema’s international opportunities.
He said: “The coach will always be the man who chooses the side and Benzema will not be excluded in the case of a guilty verdict. It’s up to Didier [Deschamps] to decide on a sporting basis.”
After six years out of the national team, the Real striker was surprisingly named in France’s squad for Euro 2020 and has since played in their Nations League and World Cup qualification fixtures.
Valbuena currently plays Olympiacos in Greece but hasn’t featured at international level since 2015. He scored eight goals for France, including one at the 2014 World Cup against Switzerland.