World Cup winner Paul Pogba paid 100,000 euros ($100,000) to an organized group including his brother that was trying to extort him for millions, French officials said on Tuesday.
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 France midfielder, and repeatedly intimidated him, claiming he didn’t support them after he became an international soccer star.
An official close to 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 line with official practice during an ongoing investigation.
According to French media reports, Paul Pogba told investigators the extortionists wanted to discredit him by claiming he asked a witch doctor to cast a spell on another French star, Kylian Mbappe. Paul Pogba denied the allegation.
Mathias Pogba on Sunday appeared to address the witch doctor claim in a Twitter post, directed at Mbappe: “Kylian, do you understand now? I have nothing against you, what I am saying is for your own good, everything is true and known, the witch doctor is known!”
Mbappe has not responded and has not commented on the scandal that appears to stem from a family feud.
The president of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, downplayed the scandal that includes two of France’s stars just four months before the World Cup.
“These are just rumors at this point,” Le Graet said in an interview with Radio Monte Carlo on Monday. Regarding Paul Pogba, who is currently sidelined by a knee injury, Le Graet added: “I love Paul. I hope this does not call into question his (World Cup) spot 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, Paul’s agent Rafaela Pimenta, and Mbappe. In Instagram videos, Mathias seemed to be reading a statement in Italian, Spanish, English and French promising “great revelations.”
“All this is likely to be explosive,” Mathias added.
France’s public broadcaster BFM reported on Tuesday that Paul 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 also made demands of Paul at the Juventus training center in Turin. He said Mathias was among them, according to reports by France-Info, also a public broadcaster.
In response, Paul issued a statement through his lawyer that said his brother’s claims were “in addition to threats and extortion attempts by an organized gang against Paul Pogba.”
The Paris prosecutor’s office said on Monday it opened an investigation this month into attempted organized extortion, which is being handled by anti-corruption police. It would not provide further details involving an ongoing investigation.
Paul Pogba, aged 29, won the World Cup with France in 2018 and returned this summer to Juventus after six seasons at Manchester United. Mathias Pogba, three years older, is also a soccer player who has spent most of his career with lower-tier teams in Europe.