French star claims brother Mathias, friends are extorting him

French authorities are investigating claims that Paul Pogba, the World Cup winner and Juventus midfielder, has been the victim of threats and extortion attempts by his older brother, Mathias, and childhood friends.

The story broke Sunday after a bizarre video appeared on Mathias’ social media accounts. In the two-minute, 41-second video, Mathias spoke four languages and read a pre-written message promising “big revelations” about Paul, Paul’s representative Rafaela Pimenta and fellow French star Kylian Mbappé.

Paul Pogba’s camp responded, saying in a statement that his brother’s threats “are unfortunately no surprise,” and “are in addition to threats and extortion attempts by an organized gang against Paul Pogba.”

French media soon reported that police have been investigating this claim since early August, and that Paul Pogba has told investigators that he has been targeted by Mathias and others in a multi-million-dollar blackmail attempt. French prosecutors confirmed Monday that an investigation into “extortion attempts by an organized gang” is ongoing.

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Details of Paul Pogba’s extortion claims

In multiple meetings with investigators, Paul Pogba has detailed threats and intimidation that he says date back to March, according to a Sunday report from France Info, an affiliate of public broadcaster Radio France.

Pogba reportedly told investigators that, on a visit home to Paris’ suburbs while on national team duty with France in late-March, childhood friends dragged him into an apartment, where two armed men demanded 13 million euros ($13 million) for “services rendered” — supposedly for protecting him for 13 years.

According to RMC, a French media outlet, Pogba said that he eventually paid nearly 100,000 euros to the blackmailers, hoping to appease them, but they weren’t satisfied.

Pogba reportedly said that he then saw the blackmailers again in April in Manchester — where he lived while playing for Manchester United — and in July in Turin, where he now plays for Juventus.

It was in July, he reportedly told investigators, that he recognized his brother Mathias among the men. After approaching Juventus’ lawyers, they notified police.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 15: Paul Pogba of France celebrates the victory with his mother Yeo Pogba and his brothers Florentin Pogba, Mathias Pogba following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final between France and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Paul Pogba’s brothers, Mathias and Florentin, and their mother Yeo celebrate with Paul after Paul won the 2018 World Cup with France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Paul Pogba’s relationship with his brother and friends

Publicly, for years, Paul and Mathias Pogba seemed to enjoy a close relationship.

Mathias, 32, is also a professional soccer player who had short stints at a variety of clubs, mostly in lower divisions, in France, England, Italy, Spain, Wales, Scotland, Slovenia and the Netherlands.

He played occasionally for Guinea’s national team — Mathias and twin brother Florentin were born in Conakry, the Guinean capital, shortly before the family moved to France — but, perhaps more prominent, he was a visible and boisterous member of the French national team’s friends and family section. Mathias, Florentin and their mother, Yeo Moriba, celebrated with Paul on the field after Paul won the 2018 World Cup.

Mathias also attended Euro games last summer, according to French media reports. And when he held a charity event at a Paris hotel on March 20, a week before the alleged blackmailing began, Paul, who had previously supported Mathias’ charitable foundation, reportedly attended.

Paul Pogba also reportedly stayed close with childhood friends. In interviews with investigators, he reportedly said he never hesitated to help them financially. He reportedly traced the messiness back to January of this year, when he said he kicked one friend out of his Manchester house after realizing the friend had used Paul’s credit card to steal 200,000 euros.

It’s unclear how Mathias allegedly became involved, how many childhood friends are allegedly involved, or what the relationship between those friends and an organized gang allegedly is.

Mathias Pogba’s statements

In his initial video posted late Saturday night, Mathias Pogba claimed that the “whole world, as well as my brother’s fans, and even more so the French team and Juventus, my brother’s teammates and his sponsors, deserve to know certain things.”

He said that the “revelations” would allow people to determine whether Pogba “deserves his place in the French team and the honor of playing in the World Cup,” whether “he deserves to be a starter at Juventus,” and whether “he is a trustworthy person.”

On Sunday, via a newly created (and unverified) Twitter account, Mathias wrote that Paul’s camp had responded with a statement about the threats in order to gain “credibility.”

“I hope you won’t be fooled by an attempt to manipulate the media and the authorities,” he wrote, before accusing Paul of lying to police.

Later on Sunday night, reacting to the France Info report, Mathias posted another string of tweets, in which he claimed without evidence that he has “enough to prove my words and your lies.”

“You implicated me in spite of myself,” Mathias wrote, per a Get French Football News translation. “I almost died because of you, you left me in a hole and you want to play the innocent one. When everything is said people will see that there is no bigger coward, bigger traitor and bigger hypocrite than you on this earth.”

Why is Kylian Mbappé mentioned?

Mathias, in his final tweet, then addressed “Kylian,” presumably Kylian Mbappé. Alongside a confusing message about witchcraft, he wrote that “everything is true and proven.”

This was seemingly a reference to the France Info report. Paul Pogba reportedly told investigators that his blackmailers threatened to broadcast messages in which Paul asks a marabout — a Muslim holy man or hermit — from his entourage to cast a “spell” on opponents and teammates, including Mbappé.

Pogba reportedly denied this — he had paid the marabout, he said, to protect himself from injury, according to France Info.

In his video, Mathias promised to “tell you very important things about Kylian Mbappé, the star of world football, and there will be numerous witnesses to confirm my remarks. All of this could be explosive and make a huge noise.” But France Info reported that the threat of false messages about witchcraft appears to be Mbappé’s only connection to the case.

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