World Cup winner Paul Pogba paid €100,000 ($100,000) to an organized group, including his brother, who tried to blackmail him for millions, French officials said on Tuesday.
French prosecutors are investigating allegations that Pogba was the target of blackmail by his brother, Mathias Pogba, and childhood friends from the eastern suburbs of Paris, where they grew up. They demanded €13 million from the French midfielder, and repeatedly threatened him, claiming that he did not support them after he became an international star.
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No charges have yet been filed, prosecutors said, but sources told ESPN that Pogba told police the group told him he owed them money for looking after him as a youth and that they expected cash repayment.
An official close to the investigation confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday that Pogba told investigators he had already paid €100,000.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with official practice during an ongoing investigation.
According to French media reports, Paul Pogba told investigators that the alleged blackmailers wanted to discredit him by claiming he asked a witch to cast a spell on another French star, Kylian Mbappe.
Paul Pogba denied the allegation.
Mathias Pogba on Sunday appeared to address the witch’s claim in a Twitter post directed at Mbappe: “Kylian, do you understand now? I have nothing against you, what I say is for your own good, everything is true and known, the witch is familiar!”
Mbappe did not respond or comment on the scandal, which appears to stem from a family dispute.
A source told ESPN that the Mbappe family is monitoring the situation.
France coach Didier Deschamps has been aware of the problem between Pogba and his brother for some time and is monitoring the situation, sources told ESPN.
The president of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, played down the scandal, which involves two of France’s stars just four months before the World Cup.
“These are just rumours,” Le Graet said in an interview with Radio Monte Carlo on Monday.
Regarding Paul Pogba, who is currently sidelined with a knee injury, Le Graet added: “I love Paul. I hope this doesn’t call into question his [World Cup] place on the French side.”
The case became public after Mathias Pogba posted on social media last weekend threats to share “explosive” revelations about his brother, Rafaela Pimenta (Paul’s agent), and Mbappe.
In Instagram videos, Mathias seemed to read a statement in Italian, Spanish, English and French promising “great revelations”.
“All of this is probably going to be explosive,” Mathias added.
According to ESPN sources, a childhood friend of Pogba, who spent a lot of time at Pogba’s house in Manchester, stole €200,000 by credit card.
France’s public broadcaster BFM reported on Tuesday that Pogba made the payment in April after he was threatened by masked, armed men in a Paris apartment in March while he was in France for national team matches.
The group are also believed to have made demands of Pogba at the Juventus training center in Turin. He said that Mathias is among them, according to reports from France-Info, also a public broadcaster.
In response, Paul Pogba issued a statement through his lawyer that said his brother’s claims were “in addition to threats and blackmail attempts by an organized gang against Paul Pogba.”
The Paris prosecutor’s office said on Monday that it had opened an investigation this month into an attempted organized extortion, which is being handled by anti-corruption police. It would not provide further details involving an ongoing investigation.
Paul Pogba, 29, won the World Cup with France in 2018 and returned to Juventus this summer after six seasons at Manchester United.
Mathias Pogba, three years older, is also a footballer who has spent most of his career with lower teams in Europe.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.