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Real Madrid's Karim Benzema snubs his own trial to train for El Clasico despite facing jail over sex tape blackmail plot

KARIM Benzema snubbed his own trial to train with Real Madrid today despite facing jail for allegedly blackmailing a teammate over a sex tape.

The French footballer, 33, was given permission by judges not to attend the Versailles Criminal Court, west of Paris, ahead of his team's El Clasico match with Barcelona on Sunday.


Benzema, whose legal team represented him today at the French court, faces up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Prosecutors accused the striker of working with a gang of blackmailers to convince ex-France teammate Mathieu Valbuena, 37, to hand over money.

Beyond a lengthy jail term, Benzema could be fined around £65,000 if found guilty of complicity in attempted blackmail.

The four co-accused, who are all old friends of the striker, also face charges of attempted blackmail.

All are said to have humiliated Valbuena by threatening to publish a sex video showing him having "intimate relations" with a partner.

A prosecuting source said: "Karim Benzema has admitted speaking to Valbuena at the request of a childhood friend, who was approached by three blackmailers who were in possession of the sex tape."

But Benzema’s lawyer Sylvain Cormier said his client was completely innocent and took no part in the blackmail plot.

Benzema himself has called the charges "absurd" after they saw both him and Valbuena dropped from the France squad before their 2018 World Cup victory in Russia.

It was only this season that the forward was finally reinstalled in Les Bleus first team and he has been playing some of the best football of his career.

Ex-Marseille midfielder Valbuena – won 52 caps for France – first lodged a complaint with cops in June 2015 after being phoned by an unknown person about the sex tape.

Police then posed as friends of Valbuena, luring three alleged blackmailers into a trap before arresting them.

Two of the group had ties to Djibril Cisse, the former Liverpool player, who was originally arrested in relation to the case but then released.

In 2014, Benzema was cleared on all charges during an under-age sex trial in Paris, in which his co-defendant was the former France winger Franck Ribery.

Both players denied knowingly paying for sex with Zahia Dehar when she was under 18.

Benzema is currently being supported throughout his legal troubles by his wife, the French model Cora Gauthier, 29.

He was previously linked with pop star Rihanna but despite being pictured together they never publicly confirmed a romantic relationship.

Karim Benzema strongly denies all allegations of misconduct made against him.

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