Football

Benzema gets 1-year suspended jail term

A French court gave Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema a one-year suspended sentence and a 75,000 euro (S$115,000) fine yesterday for complicity in a bid to blackmail his former France teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape.

The sentence was tougher than that sought by prosecutors against the 33-year-old star over the 2015 extortion attempt, which led Benzema to be exiled from the France national team for 51/2 years.

Benzema was not in court in the Paris suburb of Versailles for the verdict, which came hours before Real Madrid took on Sheriff Tiraspol in a Champions League game in Moldova this morning (Singapore time).

He was not accused of being behind the extortion attempt but rather of conspiring with the suspected blackmailers by putting pressure on Valbuena to pay them off.

The court ruled that he had "implicated himself personally, through subterfuge and lies, to convince his teammate to submit to the blackmail".

His defence team immediately announced plans for an appeal.

Speaking to reporters at the courthouse, one of his lawyers, Sylvain Cormier, said he was "stunned" by the sentence, which he called "very severe, unfair and unfounded".

A second lawyer, Antoine Vey, said that Benzema, who did not attend his trial, would "come and explain himself" when the case went to an appeal.

The prosecution had called for Benzema to be given a 10-month suspended sentence.

Benzema's four co-accused received sentences ranging from 18 months suspended to 21/2 years behind bars.

The verdict is not expected to damage Benzema's career, with both the French football federation president Noel le Graet and Real remaining supportive of their star. - AFP

Football