World Cup winner Paul Pogba paid €100,000 ($100,000) to an organised group, including his brother, that was trying to extort him for millions, French officials said Tuesday.
French prosecutors are investigating allegations that Pogba was the target of extortion by his brother, Mathias Pogba, and childhood friends from the east suburbs of Paris, where they grew up. They demanded €13 million from the France midfielder, and repeatedly intimidated him, claiming he didn't support them after he became an international star.
No charges have yet been made, prosecutors said, but sources told ESPN that Pogba told the police that the group told him he owed them money for looking after him as a youngster and that they expected a cash payback.
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 line with official practice during an ongoing investigation.
According to French media reports, Paul Pogba told investigators the alleged extortionists wanted to discredit him by claiming he asked a witch doctor to cast a spell on another France 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.
A source told ESPN that the Mbappe family is monitoring the situation.
Mathias Pogba released a new video on social media on Tuesday in which he claimed his brother had paid millions of euros to witch doctors over the years in order to avoid injury and that "these practices require you to do bad things for their rituals with a desire to do harm."
He also defended himself against the accusation of extortion.
"In his relentless effort to discredit anyone who knows his dirty little secrets, Paul claims that the money he gave to his childhood friends was part of an extortion," Mathias Pogba said. "But what if this money is justified by official and registered documents, and there is evidence of a consenting gesture?"
France team coach Didier Deschamps has been aware of the issue 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, downplayed the scandal that involves 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, Rafaela Pimenta (Paul's agent), 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.
According to ESPN sources, a childhood friend of Pogba who spent a lot of time in Pogba's house in Manchester stole €200,000 via a credit card.
France's public broadcaster BFM reported 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 also allegedly made demands of Pogba 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 Pogba issued a statement through his lawyer that said his brother's claims were "in addition to threats and extortion attempts by an organised 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, 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.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.