Karim Benzema has been found guilty in France of using “subterfuge and lies” in his evidence in a sex tape case, and ordered to perform a year of community service.
The ruling is certain to heighten international questions over Benzema’s role in France’s scandal-plagued national team.
Benzema, a World Cup winner in 2014, faces a three-year ban from football if he is found guilty again at a trial next month in the case involving his former teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
French media reported Friday that Benzema was also sent letters of caution for attempted fraud, and that a criminal investigation was opened after prosecutors learned that Benzema had put on the encrypted information sent to his lawyers. The letters were sent in March.
Benzema, Benzema! Here are the new classes to take in our revised #TrainingRoom https://t.co/pjvUsP83ER pic.twitter.com/1LmibN1iWQ — Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) September 15, 2017
Lawyers for Benzema lodged appeals against Friday’s verdict.
Dressed in green, Benzema shook his head and refused to answer a question from journalists at the courthouse.
“I refuse to comment,” he said.
The club confirmed that Benzema would start a three-month suspension from first-team duties during the appeal process.
“Real Madrid wishes to reiterate its confidence in the judgement of the ruling and will publish its position on the next steps at the proper time,” the Spanish club said in a statement.
In a verdict announced at the courthouse in Paris, Judge Anne Moulins also found that Benzema “knew perfectly well” about attempts to extort money from Valbuena in 2014.
Moulins accused Benzema of using the “leaks of the blackmail plot in order to avoid attention that might otherwise have been paid to the affair and therefore damage the interests of the blackmail plot.”
The 31-year-old Benzema was also sentenced to 3,000 euros ($3,400) in damages to Valbuena.
More than a year ago, police raided Benzema’s home as part of a probe into Valbuena’s extortion case. At the time, Valbuena was already in exile in Majorca to escape pressure from police, fans and social media.
Valbuena has denied an affair with Benzema and said he did not know of the existence of a sex tape until Benzema told him about it after Valbuena was taken to jail in mid-2015.
The transcript of a police interrogation of Benzema to Valbuena’s lawyer that Valbuena provided to police was made public on Thursday by the Journal du Dimanche.
Valbuena, 31, is facing trial on charges of aggravated theft in connection with the sex tape case. Benzema was not charged in this case.
French magazine France Football, presenters of the annual Ballon d’Or award, published Tuesday its all-time ranking of the 30 best clubs in the world. The ranking system is based on roster analysis (trophies, Ballon d’Or awards, etc.), television audience, social media impact, stadium attendance, revenue, expenses, market value and historical importance. (José Luis Sánchez Pando) (José Luis Sánchez Pando)