PARIS, France (AP) – According to French media, France and Real Madrid star Karim Benzema has withdrawn his appeal against a conviction for involvement in blackmail in a blackmail case that shocked French sports.
Last year, a Versailles court sentenced Benzema to a year in prison with a one-year suspension and a fine of 75,000 euros ($80,000) after accusing him of attempting to blackmail France teammate Mathieu Valbuena in 2015. Valbuena was also awarded 80,000 euros in damages by Benzema.
Benzema’s international career was put on pause for more than five years following the original incident, but he has now returned to playing for France, and his conviction has not kept him off the field. Last week, he won the Champions League for Real Madrid, and on Friday night, he scored France’s sole goal in a 2-1 Nations League loss to Denmark.
Benzema’s lawyer, Hugues Vigier, informed the French publication L’Equipe that his client has decided to drop his appeal but maintains his innocence. The appeals trial was supposed to start on June 30.
“This procedure has worn out my client,” Vigier was reported as saying. “The conviction is a legal fact, but it is not reality,” says the author. Karim Benzema will continue to maintain his innocence in this matter.”
Benzema’s lawyers did not reply to demands for comment right away.
Benzema was sacked from France’s national team by coach Didier Deschamps after getting preliminary accusations in November 2015. Benzema was recalled for the postponed Euro 2020 competition, and he has been a regular since then.
Since the incident surfaced, Valbuena has not played for France.