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Paul Pogba face-to-face with group accused of extorting him

A picture taken on September 29, 2021 shows Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester.   -  
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France star Paul Pogba was questioned Friday (Sep. 15) alongside five acquaintances and childhood friends suspected of involvement in a March 2022 extortion attempt against him, sources familiar with the case told AFP.

The joint questioning session at the Paris criminal court is the latest step in an investigation into a March 2022 break-in at the Juventus midfielder's home, just one of a string of woes including a provisional suspension this week for doping.

Two intruders held Pogba, 30, against his will demanding 13 million euros ($14 million at today's rates).

Accounts of the night's events differ between the five men, charged with armed extorsion and criminal conspiracy, and World Cup-winner Pogba himself.

The sixth suspect, Pogba's older brother Mathias, was not present at the court on Friday morning.

Investigators believe he pressured Paul for months to pay the sum demanded -- which Mathias denies -- but was not there at the time of the March 19-20 break-in.

"The only people who can hurt you are the people who are close to you," Paul Pogba told Al Jazeera in a recent interview.

"They're the ones who can destroy you."

A criminal team

The investigating magistrate will also be able to compare the different versions of events given by suspects in records of their questioning seen by AFP.

It remains unclear who participated in a dinner on the night of March 19, whether Pogba was forcibly moved to another apartment that same night, and whether his phone was taken away or simply shut down in a "habit" the group of friends had -- a claim made by Roushdane K., one of the main suspects.

The intruders' method of access into Pogba's living room is also unknown.

Among the five suspects are three of Paul Pogba's childhood friends and two other old acquaintances from their neighbourhood.

A police summary of the case seen by AFP describes them as "a criminal team made up of childhood friends alongside an individual with a confirmed criminal profile, Roushdane, with the aim of embezzling 13 million euros from Paul, who cut them off financially at the beginning of the year".

All five have denied involvement in individual questioning.

Roushdane K. claimed he was afraid for his own safety, calling himself a "victim" and saying he had been shot over Pogba's failure to pay up.

Pogba's questioning comes days after the midfielder, once the world's most expensive footballer, was provisionally suspended for a doping violation.

Italian anti-doping authority NADO said Monday that his tests showed elevated levels of testosterone.

Since returning to Juventus in July last year, he has started only one match after suffering a serious knee injury in pre-season.