Spain: Dozens of arrests in tennis fixing probe

by Samuel Abasi Posted on January 10th, 2019

Spain: Spanish police have made widespread arrests following an investigation into tennis match-fixing by an organised Armenian criminal gang.

Eleven house searches were carried out in Spain and 167,000 euros ($A268,620) in cash were seized, along with a shotgun, more than 50 electronic devices, credit cards, five luxury vehicles and documentation related to the case.

Forty-two bank accounts have been frozen.

Spanish police said in a statement 15 people had been arrested, including the leaders of the criminal organisation, while a further 68 people have been investigated.

The Guardia Civil said on Thursday that 83 people were implicated in the racket, among them 28 players in the ITF Futures and Challenger categories.

Of the 83 people implicated in the case, 28 were professional tennis players including one, whose identity was not revealed, who competed at the 2018 US Open.

According to the force, those responsible for the alleged fraud were engaged in bribing professional players in order to profit from bets placed on fixed matches.

“Fifteen people have been arrested, among them the heads of the organisation, and another 68 are under investigation,” the Guardia Civil said in a statement. “Of those 83, 28 are professional tennis players who have either been detained or investigated – one of whom took part in the last US Open.”

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The force said the operation had been prompted by complaints made by the international anti-corruption group the Tennis Integrity Unit. Officers focused their investigation on a Spanish player and the network began to unravel.

“A group of Armenian individuals used a professional player who served as the link between them and the other members of the network,” the statement said.

“Once the bribe had been paid, the Armenians headed for the match venues to use their overwhelming muscle to make sure that the player kept their end of the deal. They then gave the order for bets to be laid both nationally and internationally.”

The Guardia Civil said the scam had been operating since at least February 2017 and could have generated profits running into millions of euros.

Its officers searched 11 addresses in nine Spanish provinces, finding €167,000 (£151,000) in cash, as well as a handgun, stolen identity documents, jewellery, more than 50 electronic devices and five high-end vehicles.

The investigation had resulted in the freezing of 42 bank accounts and the confiscation of various properties.

“Those currently under arrest ran the money through different accounts before finally transferring it to those under their control, always using false names,” said police. “They are suspected of membership of a criminal organisation, corrupting private individuals (in the sporting world), fraud, money laundering, illegal possession of firearms and identity theft.”

The Guardia Civil, which carried out the investigation in conjunction with Europol and officials at the Spanish tax office, said that internet betting was a growing phenomenon and criminals who exploited it were priority targets for the force.

European Union law enforcement agency Europol, which supported the Spanish operation, said at least 97 matches from lower-tier Futures and Challenger tournaments were fixed.

News of the arrests came a day after the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) revealed that in 2018 more tennis players were disciplined for violations of anti-corruption rules than in any other year since the body’s creation.

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