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 By Mark Rodden

Karim Benzema in custody over Valbuena blackmail probe

Real Madrid and France striker Karim Benzema will remain in custody overnight after being questioned on Wednesday as part of an investigation into a blackmail case over a sex tape involving fellow France international Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema's lawyer Sylvain Cormier told reporters that the Real Madrid forward would spend the night at a police station in Versailles.

A judicial official with direct knowledge of the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, confirmed the information to The Associated Press.

Benzema, who denies any wrongdoing, was placed in custody after being summoned on Wednesday morning to the police station in Versailles, a city located on the western edge of Paris.

Police are trying to find out if Benzema played any role in the extortion attempt targeting France midfielder Valbuena, and if there was any attempt to blackmail the Lyon player.

Cormier, said his client told the judge in charge of the case that he was available for questioning as soon as his name was mentioned in the media.

"Karim Benzema has absolutely nothing to feel guilty about," he told reporters.

"Karim Benzema is happy, even satisfied, to be able to finally put an end to this painful controversy. It's an affair he took no part in."

Former Liverpool and Marseille forward Djibril Cisse, 34, was questioned last month in connection with the case, which is reported to centre on an attempt to extort up to €150,000 (£106,000) from Valbuena over a sex tape.

Cisse was released without charge the same day and Lyon winger Valbuena, 31, thanked his former Marseille teammate for trying to help him.

Valbuena wrote on Facebook: "From my point of view I have nothing to reproach Djibril for, who conducted himself as a friend by trying to help me."

Reports in the French press had said Benzema, 27, would present himself to talk to police when he was next in France.

Citing the local prosecutor, French press agency AFP said he had now done so, arriving at a police station in Versailles shortly before 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

Last month, Benzema's lawyer told the Journal de Dimanche that neither he nor his client had been contacted, but that they would respond positively if asked to talk to police.

Reuters quoted a police source as saying the France striker's name had emerged during phone taps in relation to the inquiry, which was opened last July.

Three other people were charged in connection with the case in mid-October.

It's not the first time Benzema has been confronted with 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' Champs-Elysees. The case lasted three years before they were acquitted.

Benzema is currently out of action because of a hamstring injury and missed Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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