PARIS, FRANCE —
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is facing preliminary charges as part of an investigation into blackmail over a sex tape involving fellow France international.
After being held overnight by police for questioning at a Versailles police station, Benzema was to be brought before a judge later Thursday, the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The judge will then decide whether Benzema should be charged or regarded as an "assisted witness," which in French law means he has not been formally charged but could be in the course of the investigation.
Investigators are trying to find out if the forward played a role in the extortion attempt targeting France midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, and if he actually tried to blackmail the Lyon player.
Three other people have been handed preliminary charges over the case since October.
Benzema spent about 24 hours in custody at a police station in Versailles after being summoned on Wednesday morning in the city located on the western edge of Paris.
In the same case, former France international Djibril Cisse was briefly detained last month after being suspected of conspiracy to blackmail, a charge with a maximum prison sentence of five years. Cisse, who has since retired from soccer, was released without seeing a judge.
Benzema's lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, said his client contacted the judge in charge of the case as soon as his name was mentioned in the media last month to let him know he was willing to answer questions from detectives.
"He wants to put an end as soon as possible to this controversy that rose from a case he did not take part in," Cormier said Wednesday.
The case started earlier this year when Valbuena decided to take legal action after being contacted by a man claiming to be in possession of an incriminating sex tape he would exchange for money.
It's not the first time Benzema has faced problems off the field.
Five years ago, preliminary charges were filed against Franck Ribery and Benzema for soliciting an underage prostitute. Both players were questioned as part of a probe into a suspected network of prostitutes that operated out of a nightclub on Paris' glitzy Champs-Elysees. The case lasted three years before they were acquitted.