Le Monde have exclusively obtained a transcript of what Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema said to the judge Nathalie Boutard when he was questioned concerning his alleged involvement in the Mathieu Valbuena blackmail-sextape affair. Extracts below.
Judge: Do you accept the things that we are planning to investigate you for and, if so, to what extent?
Benzema: No, I did not participate in that.
Judge: How do you perceive what is alleged against you?
Benzema: I think that it is a big misunderstanding, all that. At the beginning, I wanted to make him aware of the story on him and to help him. Because this has already happened to me, in a similar style at least. He is somebody who plays with me in the French national team, he is a friend. I wanted to make him aware of this matter and to discuss with him to make him aware that this had already happened to me and to see what he thought.
Judge: The phone number 06.16.XX.XX.XX. is that yours?
Benzema: I will have to see, because I do not know my number by heart, but it should be mine.
Judge: Are you the only one to use it?
Benzema: Only I use it.
Judge: Are you nicknamed “Coco”?
Benzema: Yes, that is my nickname.
Judge: Do you know Karim Zenati?
Judge: What are the nature of your links with him?
Benzema: He is a friend, a very good friend, like a brother. Yes, he is a childhood friend.
Judge: What relationship do you have with him today?
Benzema: He works for my company.
Judge: Has he been doing so for a long time?
Benzema: For two or three years.
Judge: Is it a company or an association?
Benzema: It is a company, but he also works for my association.
Judge: What does he do for your company?
Benzema: I do not know anymore what role he has, but it is linked with the association…
Judge: Were you aware of his convictions and his current situation?
Benzema: Yes. Yes, I knew that he was on parole.
Judge: Is Karim Zenati expected to be in contact with your agent, Karim Djaziri?
Benzema: Yes, often.
Judge: How did you become aware of the intimate video concerning Mr Valbuena?
Benzema: I do not remember the exact date now, but it was just a bit before the French national team, the match France vs Armenia. It was a bit before Clairefontaine. To answer you, it was around three weeks before. I was in Madrid. I was at a lunch with Karim Zenati. Someone came to give me a Louis Vuitton cushion and spoke to me about a video of Mathieu Valbuena.
Judge: This person who gave you a Louis Vuitton cushion, did you know him?
Benzema: No, I did not know him. Yesterday, I was shown a photo of it and I recognised it. But I do not remember his name.
Benzema: He gives me a cushion as a gift, he sits down, he says hello, but I did not listen to him, because I do not know him. He said that a video existed of Mathieu Valbuena, an intimate video. And there, at that moment, I said to him: “Stop yourself immediately, I do not want to hear it.” This person stayed, we continued to eat and then after that we split.
Judge: Did this person have lunch with you?
Benzema: Yes, he ate.
Judge: How do you explain therefore that you are in a restaurant in Madrid with one of your friends, someone comes to see you with a present and speaks to you about something strange? How do you end up inviting him to your table for lunch?
Benzema: I did not invite him, he came on his own accord, he knew Karim. After that, I did not have any more contact with this person, it is the only time that I saw him.
Judge: When and in what conditions did you end up talking about this video with M. Valbuena?
Benzema: It was with the French national team, two days before the match France vs Armenia. I saw him, we were at Clairefontaine. After the meal, I saw him in my room, I told him that I needed to speak to him about something. It was only us two. I started to talk to him about this video that they had on him, I told him that the nature of the video was “intimate”.
Judge: How did that go?
Benzema: When I started to tell him that there was a video, that I was there for him and that I could help him (because Benzema had already been through a similar situation), he asked me questions about that sort of thing. I told him that everything depends on him and that it was up to him to decide.
He talked to me about it being viral, because we are well-known people. I told him that these viral stories were not my concern and that he should do what he wanted. I told him that there was someone who could have seen him and tried to help him too. It was Mr Zenati.
Judge: How did Mathieu Valbuena react?
Benzema: At the beginning, I felt that he was annoyed, very annoyed. He asked me what they wanted. I told him that I did not know, that I was speaking to him to help and nothing else. He told me that he had let his family know. So, I said to him that he should not care and let these people release it if these people want to release something.
He told me that he had gone to see his lawyer and that he had already gone to see the police. After that, I went back to Spain, because I had a pain in my leg. He told me that he would tell me at the end of the international team meet if he would continue to deal with this alone or if he would like the help of my friend. But he was already aware of what was going on.
Judge: You said to us that something like this has happened to you, did you pay up?
Benzema: I called the police and my lawyer. They asked me for money. I went about it as if I was going to pay, but I did not pay.
Judge: Your telephone line has been intercepted by the authorities. On the 6th October 2015, you tell Mr Zenati about your meeting with Mr Valbuena. You say to Mr Zenati that “you have seen him” and that you think that he is “not taking you seriously”, two times. What do you have to say?
Benzema: I am speaking about helping, of the help that he could have received from my friend Karim and from me. I am not really talking about anything else. You can listen to all my conversations, sometimes on the phone, I over-do it a bit, I am kidding. I did not have anything else in the back of my mind.
Judge: Mr Zenati responds to you: “yes, that means in reality, I think, that he is not going to let anything go this one, no”. That does not sound like helping. What do you have to say?
Benzema: Me, I was only speaking about helping. I am telling you that sometimes I say things on the phone that I do not mean. But we are only speaking about helping. If I was part of that group, I would not have spoken with Karim.
Judge: When Mr Valbuena asks you if in the video you can see his tattoos, you responded: “I said to him, you see everything, in a big way”, you certainly give the idea that the sextape exists credence. What do you have to say?
Benzema: I wanted to say that you saw the entirety of his body. It is Karim who spoke to me about this video, he spoke to me about an “explicit” video of Mathieu , so I think that you can see everything.
Judge: You even specify that “he was entirely white”. What do you have to say?
Benzema: When I say that he is white, it means that he is feeling uncomfortable. But I can say that, because we spoke about that concerning me, I was white, I was uncomfortable (when it happened to him).
Judge: You continue to recount what you had said to Mr Valbuena that the video is in the possession of one sole individual. “Listen, your video there is only one person who has it, I said to him, there are not 50.” You continue by reaffirming that: “people, they speak a lot, but there is only one who has your video, only one person who has it, I said to him, me, my friend… I will sort it out… because he thinks that there are going to copies.” What do you have to say?
Benzema: I was speaking about myself in relation to Karim. I only know him, I only spoke with him. He spoke to me about the video. When he speaks to me, I think that there is only one person. So I think that there are no copies. And that if he wants to talk, he can talk with my friend.
Judge: How can you claim that there is only one, when the only time that you heard someone talk about the video, it was someone who you did not know who was speaking to you?
Benzema: It is because you did not ask me the question, but before the French national team, I saw Karim. It was after seeing Karim, that he told me there was a video of him (Valbuena) that I spoke with Mathieu.
Judge: When did you see Karim Zenati?
Benzema: I do not remember exactly, but it was before the French national team’s match France vs Armenia.
Judge: You then say to Mr Valbuena: “I am saying this seriously, I am saying this honestly, I have seen it, the video, I said to him.” Have you seen the video?
Benzema: No I have not seen it.
Judge: Why did you tell him you had then?
Benzema: Honestly I do not know why I said that. I had not seen the video. Because Karim told me that it was a serious video, that is what I said to Mathieu. I pictured it in my head based on what Karim had told me, because I trust him and because he is my best friend.
Judge: Do you think that Karim Zenati has seen the video?
Benzema: I think that he has seen it, because he spoke to me in detail.
Judge: What sort of details did he give you?
Benzema: That you can see Mathieu in it, that it was a pornographic video, sexual, and that you saw him clearly and that he was filming.
Judge: You repeat: “he said to me yes you saw it where, how long ago, I said to him, the video, I saw it a week before coming, I said to him, I have seen the video myself. After that he asked me question, yes, but like what…um…where, brother, I saw him gulping, he started to gulp two, three times.” Mr Zenati then laughs. What do you have to say?
Benzema: As I said on the phone, it is overindulged. I don’t indulge in this delirium. It is just that he was uncomfortable. I do not know why we are laughing like that, because it is not good. I have not seen the video. I said that I had seen it, but that is not true. I pictured it, there you have it.
Judge: Is it really friendly advice to lie about the existence of a credible video while a blackmail is being implemented?
Benzema: No, it is not like that. I do not know how to explain it to you. We are footballers. I know him, I have known him for a long time. What happened, it is a foul thing… I know him from the French national team, we are often together. There was a thing in 2012, I defended him.
Aside from that, the way that I spoke on the phone, that is not ok. He is somebody that I like. It was only help, I had nothing else in the back of my mind, in terms of blackmail or money. I have money. I do not need it. Karim does not need it either. I give him money, he works for my company. Afterwards on the phone, we went too far, I am angry at myself for speaking in such a way, because it is not ok.
Judge: You have said that you said to Mr Valbuena to get in touch with your friend: “there is no intermediary, no lawyer, no friend, no agent, no police, not anyone who you want.” Why did you give him that advice?
Benzema: I was speaking more about myself there. I did not want my name to come out of this as it did afterwards. It was more for me that I was saying that.
Judge: You continue: “I said to him, if you want it to be destroyed, my friend will come and see you in Lyon, you see him directly, and you, you speak with him, I said to him, do not send anyone.” What do you have to say?
Benzema: Because it concerns him. He does as he likes, but it is only advice that I am giving him… I said to him that my friend was in Lyon. But at the end of each sentence, I said to him: “It is up to you, you do what you want.” But I did not say that on the phone.
Judge: You raised the issue with Mr Valbuena that money was going to be demanded: “I said to him, I do not have a clue what they want, I said to him, I do not know, he said to me, he wants money, in my opinion anyway.” What do you have to say?
Benzema: Mathieu asked me questions about what they wanted. I said to him that I did not know. But when it was me, they asked for money. But they can ask for loads of things, I don’t know. But I think that people, when there is a video like that, it is because they want money.
Judge: Did you really believe that the intervention of your friend was going to be “free”?
Benzema: Of course. For me yes, because nothing is missing. It is for that reason that I do not understand this story about blackmail and money. Because I repeat to you, nothing is missing. That is what I was thinking and my friend too, I think. Aside from that, his other associations… but there is nothing missing. I have earned my living. I have shared it with him, because he is my friend since I was very little.
Judge: After this briefing of your meeting with Mr Zenati, what dealings did you have with him?
Benzema: We no longer spoke, because I got injured and I returned to Madrid. We never spoke about that again. We spoke a bit about football and stuff, but not about that. I have not remembered it.
Judge: On the 19th October 2015, telephone conversation number 29, you seem very worried about your implication and describe Mr Valbuena as a “fa**ot”. You come up with a strategy to respond to rumours in the press. Why were you worried like this considering that you are particularly exposed to the press?
Benzema: I was not worried, more annoyed. I was only annoyed. It was those who take care of my PR who came up with this phrase. Now, I have a family, I go crazy when stories are made up. If I had been questioned, no problem, but at that point I had yet to be questioned and, in the press, they were saying that I had taken part in blackmail.
Honestly, I was annoyed. I thought to myself that he (Valbuena) was going to report me to the police, even though I had gone to see him. After that “fa**ot”, you can say that to everyone, to your friends, your mates. For me, for the new generation, it is amiable. It is not a question of being worried or I don’t know, I was just annoyed. Once again, I am in the press, once again I am being spoken about. It was for those reasons that I used that word.
Judge: Precisely when people speak badly of you in the press, do you still resort to a PR adviser?
Benzema: Yes, I have someone who looks after my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. He works in my company. I pay his bill every month.
Judge: What is the true nature of your relationship with Mr Valbuena?
Benzema: He is a good friend of mine, we are often together in the French national team, we joke about often, we get on well.
Judge: Do you see each other away from the French national team?
Benzema: No, I am in Madrid. I see him in the national team and I have bumped into him on holiday twice.
Judge: Is there anything else that you wish to add?
Benzema: I am truly disappointed about magnitude of this story, because blackmail, things like that, are truly serious. Even for my friend Karim Zenati. I did everything so that he could get out of prison, so that he could have a better ride, he works for me.
And now, to find myself in a situation like this, with a player in my team that I like, I am disappointed. When I was speaking on the phone, we were laughing, we did not take into account the seriousness of the thing, that falls down on me again. Honestly, it pisses me off for my friend. Honestly, I hate it.