French football star Pogba paid 100,000 euros to extortionists

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PARIS (AP) — World Cup winner Paul Pogba has paid 100,000 euros ($100,000) to an organized group including his brother who were trying to extort millions from him, French officials said Tuesday.

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French prosecutors are investigating allegations that Pogba was the target of extortion by his brother Mathias Pogba and childhood friends. They demanded 13 million euros from the French midfielder and repeatedly bullied him, saying he didn’t support them after becoming an international football star.

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An official familiar with the investigation confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that Pogba told investigators he had already paid 100,000 euros. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with official practice during an ongoing investigation.

According to French media, Paul Pogba has told investigators the extortionists wanted to discredit him by claiming he had a wizard cast a spell on another French star, Kylian Mbappe. Paul Pogba has denied the allegation.

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Mathias Pogba appeared to respond to the wizard’s allegation on Sunday in a Twitter message, addressed to Mbappe: “Kylian, do you understand now? I have nothing against you, what I say is for your good, everything is true and known, the wizard is known!

Mbappe hasn’t responded or commented on the scandal which appears to stem from a family feud.

The president of the French Football Federation, Noël Le Graet, has played down the scandal which concerns two of the French stars four months from the World Cup.

“Those are just rumors at this stage,” Le Graet said in an interview with Radio Monte Carlo on Monday. On Paul Pogba, who is currently sidelined with a knee injury, Le Graet added: “I love Paul. I hope this will not call into question his place (in the World Cup) on the French side.

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The case became public after Mathias Pogba posted on social media last weekend threats to share “explosive” revelations about his brother, Paul’s agent Rafaela Pimenta and Mbappe. In the Instagram videos, Mathias appeared to read a statement in Italian, Spanish, English and French promising “big reveals”.

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“All of this risks being explosive,” added Mathias.

French public broadcaster BFM reported on Tuesday that Paul Pogba made the payment in April after being threatened by masked and armed men in a Paris apartment in March while in France for national team matches.

The group also made demands of Paul at Juventus’ training center in Turin. He said Mathias was among them, according to information from France-Info, also a public broadcaster.

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In response, Paul issued a statement through his lawyer stating that his brother’s allegations were in addition to “threats and extortion attempts by an organized gang against Paul Pogba”.

The Paris prosecutor’s office announced on Monday that it had opened an investigation this month for attempted organized extortion, which is being handled by the anti-corruption police. He would not provide further details regarding 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 his senior, is also a football player who has spent most of his career with lower level teams in Europe.

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Joan J. Holland