Karim Benzema Real Madrid
Karim Benzema has been placed under formal investigation in connection with an alleged sex tape blackmail plotGetty

Real Madrid footballer Karim Benzema is under formal investigation for conspiracy to blackmail and participating in a criminal group over allegations involving the sex tape of fellow French international Mathieu Valbuena.

The striker was arrested after attending a police station in Versailles on 5 November and spent the night in custody. Benzema, 27, has now been placed under formal investigation over an alleged plot to blackmail and extort Valbuena.

Under French law, for a suspect to be placed under formal investigation means there is evidence of wrongdoing, but a judge must decide whether there is sufficient evidence for them to be charged.

The Champions League winner faces up to five years in jail if found guilty of the charges. His lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, told reporters he denies the allegations, but said he admitted to approaching Valbuena about the tape on behalf of a "childhood friend".

A source close to the investigation told AFP: "Karim Benzema has admitted speaking to [Valbeuna] at the request of a childhood friend, who was approached by three blackmailers who were in possession of the sex tape.

"Benzema said he had agreed with his childhood friend on what he should say so that his teammate would negotiate exclusively with him."

Prosecutors are said to be interested in learning the nature of a conversation Benzema and Valbuena are thought to have had at a national team training session at Clairefontainein in October. It is not known whether the striker was making a joke, offering advice to the Lyon midfielder about the video or persuading him to pay the blackmailers.

It was later confirmed that both Benzema and Valbuena have been left out of France squad to play Germany and England in the upcoming friendly fixtures.

Former Liverpool player Djibril Cisse was also questioned as part of the same inquiry, but no investigation was brought against him. He announced his retirement from football soon after.