France and Real Madrid star striker Karim Benzema has been found guilty of conspiring to blackmail fellow French footballer Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape.
A judge handed Benzema a one-year suspended jail term and ordered him to pay a €75,000 fine.
The 33-year-old was one of five people put on trial last month over an attempt to extort Valbuena.
The scandal has stunned the football community in France and both players lost their national team places.
The case dates back to June 2015, when the two footballers were at a French training camp.
At the camp, Benzema put pressure on Valbuena to pay off the blackmailers, whom he had conspired with to act as an intermediary, according to prosecutors.
Benzema has always denied the allegations and insisted he was only trying to help Valbuena get rid of the compromising video.
The player has since returned to the France team and is expected to start for Real Madrid on Wednesday night when they play FC Sheriff Tiraspol in the Champions League.
Benzema was not present in court in Versailles for the verdict, nor was Valbuena who plays for Greek club Olympiakos.
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Four of Benzema’s co-defendants in the trial were also found guilty on Wednesday. They were handed jail sentences ranging from 18 months suspended to two-and-a-half years in prison.
Benzema’s lawyers said they would appeal his conviction. “The reaction is ultimately an angry one to this judgment which is perfectly contradictory,” his lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, told reporters outside court.
But when delivering the verdict, the judge said Benzema had “implicated himself personally, through subterfuge and lies, to convince his teammate to submit to the blackmail”.
Benzema made a surprise comeback to the French national team in May, five years after he was exiled from the side when the allegations first surfaced in 2015.
But last month, the French football federation said a guilty verdict would not necessarily jeopardise Benzema’s position in the national side.
Since being called back by France manager Didier Deschamps, Benzema has been in prolific form, scoring nine times in 13 games for his country.
He was part of the French squad at this year’s European championship won by Italy and also helped the 2018 World Cup holders win the 2021 UEFA Nations League.
He’s also scored 10 goals this season for his club, Real Madrid, who are yet to comment on the verdict.
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