Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema was just handed a one-year prison sentence for conspiring to blackmail former fellow teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape. The 33-year-old French footballer was one of five people put on trial last month over a deceitful attempt to extort Valbuena, 37, in a scandal that dates back to June 2015. 

The case involved Valbuena who at the time, had asked a man in Marseille to upload contents of his mobile phone to another device. 

The man, identified as Axel Angot, came across sexually explicit material on Valbuena’s phone. Angot and his accomplice Mustapha Zouaoui threatened to make the said material public, however, in a statement to reporters, Zouaoui said there was no attempt to extort any money, BBC reported.

In court documents, another defendant, Younes Houass stated he had merely warned the player about the issue. Benzema was pointed out as a “middleman” in the alleged extortion scheme.

In his defense, Benzema said he had only intended to help out his teammate dispose of the sex tape, by offering the services of his childhood friend Karim Zenati. However, Benzema reportedly put pressure on his teammate to pay off his blackmailers by warning him, "Be careful, Math, they're big, big thugs."

At the start of the trial, Valbuena told the court that he never considered paying extortion money to stop the video leak. 

Meanwhile, Benzema has denied all the allegations and has since returned to the France team. Both Benzema and Valbuena were not present in court when the verdict was handed down in Versailles.

According to the ruling on the “sex tape case”, the suspended sentence does not require the footballer to spend a year in prison. But this shall take effect should he have a repeat offense. Benzema was slapped with a €75,000 ($84,000) fine instead.

The scandal has since caused both players to lose their places in the national team as the football community in France tries to make some sense of the case. 

Benzema is expected to start for Real Madrid Wednesday night when they come head to head with FC Sheriff Tiraspol in the Champions League. The French Football Federation also said the guilty verdict does not in any way jeopardize Benzema’s position in the national side. 

Lawyers representing Benzema said they will appeal his conviction. The court, however said the footballer had implicated himself personally through “subterfuge and lies” as he tried to convince Valbuena to submit to the blackmail. 

Quini of Granada CF competes for the ball with Karim Benzema of Real Madrid Quini of Granada CF competes for the ball with Karim Benzema of Real Madrid during the La Liga Santander match between Granada CF and Real Madrid CF at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes on November 21, 2021 in Granada, Spain. Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images