French football star Karim Benzema has admitted involvement in an alleged sex tape blackmail plot against fellow France international Mathieu Valbuena.
The Real Madrid striker, who was linked with a move to Arsenal over the summer, was arrested judicial police in Versailles, west of Paris, on Wednesday.
However, the 27-year-old footballer has claimed he himself was a victim of blackmailers, a source said Thursday.
'Karim Benzema has admitted speaking to Valbuena at the request of a childhood friend, who was approached by three blackmailers who were in possession of the sex tape,' the source close to the investigation said.
The Versailles prosecutor has placed Benzema under formal criminal investigation, with a source close to the case saying: 'We can confirm that he is being questioned over his role in this affair.'
Benzema is linked with a plot to extort money from Valbuena. Other arrests have been made in the Bouches-du-Rhone and Oise departments of France.
Valbuena, the 31-year-old Lyon midfielder who has also been linked with a number of Premiership clubs, was asked for money in return for the tape not being published, it is alleged.
Investigators are trying determine the extent to which Benzema was aware of the intimate video featuring Valbuena, which found its way into the hands of blackmailers.
According to a source, Benzema mentioned the sextape to Valbuena during a meeting of the French team in early October.
It is thought one of Benzema's relatives was contacted by the suspected blackmailers with a view to involving the footballer in their scheme, the source said.
Police are seeking to determine whether he was teasing Valbuena when he mentioned the tape, or trying to make him pay the blackmailers.
Last month, Djibril Cisse, the former Liverpool, Sunderland, and Queens Park Rangers striker was arrested over the same plot, but later released without charge.
The case relates to a judicial investigation opened in July under the orders of a judge sitting in Versailles, west of Paris.
The allegations were particularly shocking, because Cisse and Valbuena played for France together, and for Marseille between 2006 and 2008, and were considered friends.
At the time, three other suspects, aged between 25 and 30, were arrested in the Bouches-du-Rhone and Oise regions of France.
All of the other suspects were known to the police, and have convictions for 'delinquent behaviour', including blackmail, according to another source close to the case.
All also had links 'with football agents', and that the raids were launched following a 'detailed investigation' that included phone taps.
The source said the existence of the tape – which is said to show Valbuena and a girl involved in sex acts – had not been confirmed, and that it is thought the gang was asking for between £40,000-£75,000.
Cisse himself was the victim of a sex tape scandal in 2008, while playing for Marseille. He received a number of phone calls demanding more than £100,000 to prevent a tape of him having sex appearing online.
He reported the matter to the police, and a blackmailer was later arrested. He had a cheque for the equivalent of £7,000 from Cisse, and it was said to be the 'first installment' of the blackmail demand, according to police.
Last year Benzema was cleared on all charges in an underage sex trial in Paris, in which his co-defendant was the French Bayern Munich footballer Franck Ribery, also 27.
Prosecutor Jean-Julien Xavier-Rolai had been tasked with proving they had illegally slept with a teenage prostitute - a crime which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
But Mr Xavier-Rolai told Paris Correctional Court that it was 'impossible to prove' the case against them.
Both Ribery and Benzema denied knowingly paying for sex with Zahia Dehar when she was under 18.
There was no immediate comment from Benzema's lawyers about today's arrest, which happened at around 9am, but they have indicated in the past that he will offer his 'full cooperation' to investigators.