In an extraordinary interview with L’Équipe, one of the individuals who has been accused in the blackmail of Mathieu Valbuena involving a sextape, Mustapha Zouaoui, tells his version of events.
Zouaoui spent 4 months in jail from October 2015 before being released in February and is accused by the French prosecutor of blackmail and participation in criminal act.
This interview was actually recorded in June, when Marseille-based journalist Mathieu Gregoire met with Zouaoui in capital of the South of France. Just hours after this meeting, Zouaoui was locked up again by French authorities for violating the terms of his release by attempting to leave the country for Algeria to see his mother.
Here, read highlights of the extraordinary encounter:
On when he first discovered the video of Mathieu Valbuena:
It was through Axel Angot, in March 2015. I have worked with Axel for a decade, he runs a concierge business. Mathieu Valbuena could not do anything without Axel, he was the guy who did everything for him. He called him every two minutes, notably for computer related stuff.
This video dates to before his departure for Moscow. Axel came across it whilst doing some things on Mathieu’s computer, he then transferred it to an external hard drive. Axel recovers everything, it is not the first intimate video of a footballer he has come across, he has a lot of them. He spoke to me about it about 6 to 8 months afterwards.
On how Zouaoui ended up implicating Karim Benzema in this affair:
In September 2015, I was to meet with Benzema, in Madrid, I was to meet him for customised luxury products. The Louis Vuitton cushions, but not only for that. Benzema has clients. And we, we have merchandise. We go to see what we can do. It is at that moment when I meet his friend Karim Zenati. I was able to get the meeting through Ahmed Yahiaoui (a mutual friend).
We go to see him, we eat together, we laugh, things go well. He comes across as a respectful guy, a nice guy, honestly not like the usual footballer. During our three hours at a restaurant, he tells us about his time in United States, how he met Rhianna. etc. Crazy. And at that moment, I bring out my joke: “I have story that is even bigger than this, and it will make you laugh.”
To my big surprise, he did not laugh. He took it very badly. He even said: “You should not laugh about things like this. I know him, he is a very fragile guy. If you release something like that, Mathieu is capable of killing himself.”
I said to him: “Do not worry. Nothing will come of it.” And then Ahmed and Zenati look at me as if to say, why did you talk about that? You have messed up. At that moment, we lost Karim Benzema. Zenati says to me: “I think that this is over, we have pissed off Karim with this story about the video. He has taken it badly.”
I respond: “Tell him not to worry, there will be nothing coming from this.” Benzema never asked me, nor seemed interested, in what I was going to do with it. No, he was scared that it would end up on social media, on the internet. Honestly I thought that Benzema did not like Valbuena. Most of the players, when you told them about the sextape, they at least wanted to see it.
Karim Benzema did not even want to see it. I said to him: “If you want, I will send you a bit.” and he responded: “No I do not even want a bit of it.”
I was pushing Zenati to tell Karim: “Please, let this slide, lets come back to the luxury items.” Zenati, it is on the recordings, told me that Karim had already spoken about the Louis Vuitton cushions to Griezmann, to players at Real Madrid, and this story about Valbuena was going to f**k it all. I said to Zenati: “If he wants, he should go see Mathieu, and tell him that there is a sextape that is doing the rounds, and that he should not take it lightly.”
Zenati pushed Benzema, who did not want to, to go speak to Valbuena. Why? Because I was putting pressure on Zenati, I manipulated him a bit. You can hear it on the recordings… “Look, I did not tell you the entire truth, there is a guy in Paris who is indirectly putting pressure on Valbuena.”
Zenati said to me: “Listen, this is not a laughing matter for us, if you want us to advance in your ventures with us, this Valbuena stuff has to stop.”
I said to Zenati: “Tell Benzema that this situation will not go any further.”
Benzema took the initiative to Valbuena and to tell him: “Do not take this lightly.”
On the famous Valbuena – Benzema conversation at Clairefontaine:
Where Valbuena asks: “Can you see my tattoos?” Benzema responds: “Do you think I am making this up? A guy came to see me to speak about your video, he gave me details about what you are doing in it, honestly it is horrible.”
Benzema makes a mistake, from a judicial point of view. He does not tell Mathieu: I know the guy who has your video, i.e. me. For his image, he does not do that. He says: “My friend can sort you out…”
Benzema says on the recordings: “Valbuena is not taking me seriously.” The police interpret that as a damning statement, but Benzema wanted to help Valbuena. He spoke to him like that in his room in Clairefontaine.
Zenati finished by telling me: “Give it some time, burn the video, get rid of it. I will pick up the slack for you (in terms of convincing Benzema to get back into business with him).”
Benzema was seriously annoyed with me. He knows that I did not do this on purpose, to put him in s**t. I did not know that we were being listened to, our phones tapped.
On the sextape itself:
Half of the Marseille team saw it. International stars who play across Europe have seen it. The judge asked me to give names. I said: “No, everything is finding its way to the media. I work with them, if I give their name, it is over, my the circle of trust is finished.”
On Samir Nasri:
He hates Valbuena, he laughed (when he saw it), yes, for the rest he did not care about it. He did not have time to play a role in this. Players generally speaking wanted the video to come out because they did not like Valbuena. Some players who were at the Euros with France told me: “Do something, release it, I know such and such journalist who will release it.” Benzema never had the video to hand, contrary to others.
On the police backing Valbuena into a corner:
I am convinced that Valbuena, as soon as he knew that it was Axel behind it, wanted to be done with the whole thing. But the police told him no, that he had to go all the way. He apparently called Axel, and told him: “I know that you have the video, stop being an idiot.”
The story would have stopped there, for sure. Today, Valbuena knows that. He was manipulated by his lawyer, by the police who though that they had the case of their lives in their hands.