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Trial begins for soccer star Karim Benzema over sex tape blackmail plot

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Trial begins for soccer star Karim Benzema over sex tape blackmail plot
Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema is seen during the UEFA Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain on November 26, 2019, in Madrid, Spain. File Photo by Rodrigo Jimenez/EPA-EFE

Oct. 20 (UPI) -- French soccer star Karim Benzema went on trial Wednesday to face charges that he was involved in an attempt to blackmail a former teammate with a sex tape several years ago, only he didn't show up for it.

Prosecutors say Benzema, a player for Real Madrid and the French national team, was a participant in the effort to extort Mathieu Valbuena with the graphic footage.

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The trial began Wednesday and is expected to last about three days.

The explicit footage was discovered when one of plotters helped Valbuena transfer content from one smartphone to another in 2015.

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Prosecutors say Benzema actively encouraged Valbuena to pay the blackmail money.

Those accused in the case are Benzema and accused plotters Axel Angot, Mustapha Zouaoui, Karim Zenati and Youness Houass.

According to the charges, Benzema told Valbuena that the blackmailers were "very heavy criminals" and informed one of the other plotters that Valbuena wasn't taking the scam seriously.

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Benzema has denied that he was actively involved in the plot, and defense attorneys argue that undercover police officers deceptively lured him into the scheme.

Benzema faces a charge of complicity, and the other four face charges of attempted blackmail, and Angot faces an additional charge of breach of trust. If convicted, Benzema faces as many as five years in prison and an $87,000 fine.

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Benzema was not in court Wednesday for the start of the trial due to professional obligations, his attorney said.

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Valbuena, 37, plays for the Greek Super League club Olympiacos -- but he and Benzema were members of the French national team six years ago during the scandal.

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