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Real Madrid Star Under Formal Investigation Over Sex Tape Blackmail Claims

The Real Madrid striker is now under the "judicial supervision" of French police.

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French football star Karim Benzema has been charged as part of the investigation over an alleged plot to blackmail a fellow French international.

Jeff Gross / Getty Images

Benzema, the 27-year-old Real Madrid striker, has been placed under formal investigation and has appeared before a judge in the French city of Versailles.

Police are investigating the alleged blackmail of France and Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, who was a team-mate of Benzema's during the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

Investigators are trying to determine if Benzema was involved with an alleged attempt to blackmail Valbuena over possession of a sex tape.

The AFP news agency claimed on Thursday that Benzema has been officially charged, citing prosecution officials.

#UPDATE Karim Benzema charged in sex tape extortion case https://t.co/9JTYbaxuSU

AFP also claims a source has indicated Benzema has admitted being involved, a claim also reported by French sports daily L'Equipe.

The prosecutor in the case claims Benzema could face up to five years in jail if he is found guilty.

The investigation comes ahead of the Euro 2016 football tournament – to be hosted in France next summer – for which Valbuena and Benzema have been training together as part of their national team.

The 27-year-old has admitted speaking to Valbuena about the tape, and has told investigators that he did so "on behalf of a childhood friend", according to the BBC.

It is thought the alleged communication took place at a training camp in early October, but it is not clear whether the supposed mention of the tape is linked to the alleged attempted blackmail of Valbuena.

Benzema is not being held in custody, but he is now forbidden from contacting Valbuena, due to being under judicial supervision, and is unlikely to have any involvement with the French national team while the case is ongoing.

Benzema's lawyer Sylvain Cormier has told press that his client is innocent:

"Karim wishes to put an end to all the polemics that have emerged following this case, in which he has played no part whatsoever," Cormier told AFP.

"When his name first emerged in the press, Karim immediately made it clear that he was standing at the disposal of investigators.

"Karim went to Versailles to answer some questions, but he has absolutely not done anything wrong. He has nothing to hide.

"He is happy and quite satisfied to be able to finally end this painful controversy."

Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse has also been interviewed by French police as part of the investigation.

Loic Venance / AFP / Getty Images

Cisse was interviewed two weeks ago, but is not being targeted as part of the investigation.

Three suspects have been charged in connection with the case since October, and the Guardian reports that they are "thought to be footballers".

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