Mathieu Valbuena, the victim of a sex tape blackmail attempt over which fellow France international Karim Benzema has been charged, gave evidence before a judge investigating the affair for more than two hours on Friday. Valbuena was seen by an AFP journalist leaving the court in Versailles, on the outskirts of Paris, in a black Mercedes at around 12:45 p.m. local time (1145 GMT) following a hearing that began around 10:30 a.m.
“He was very calm and answered all questions honestly,” Valbuena’s lawyer Didier Domat said outside the court. The lawyer refused to discuss what had been said during the hearing because of the “confidentiality of the investigation.”
However, Domat added that Valbuena “had no wish to damage the integrity of the French national team or of French football” and had only acted “within his right as a citizen” in pressing charges.
Valbuena is set to feature for Lyon in Friday night’s Ligue 1 game away to Nice with sports daily L’Equipe reporting that the 31-year-old would travel to the Cote d’Azur in a private jet laid on by the club. He was expected to be questioned by judge Nathalie Boutard about a conversation he had with Benzema on Oct. 5 at the France national training centre in Clairefontaine, outside Paris. The inquiry will seek to determine whether the 27-year-old Real Madrid striker Benzema acted as a friend or a blackmailer during the conversation.
A source close to the investigation has said Benzema has admitted approaching Valbuena about the tape on behalf of a “childhood friend,” Karim Zenati, who himself had been contacted by blackmailers in possession of the tape. But Benzema’s lawyer said the player was innocent and “has admitted nothing at all.”
Investigators have recordings of a telephone conversation on Oct. 6 with Zenati during which Benzema tells his friend about his conversation with Valbuena the previous day.
“I did have a conversation with Zenati on the way to approach the subject with Mathieu Valbuena … but without a second thought,” Benzema told investigators.
“That Karim Zenati benefited from it wasn’t my aim, I didn’t think about it, I’m frankly shocked, I feel stupid when I see that.”
Both players were left out of the France squad for the recent friendly matches against Germany — which was disrupted by suicide attackers outside the Stade de France last Friday — and the game against England at Wembley on Tuesday.
The blackmail case began in June, when Valbuena lodged a complaint with police after being telephoned by an unknown person who said he had the sex tape in his possession.
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