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Tennis match-fixing: 28 professional players among 83 investigated as part of large criminal gang

The Independent logo The Independent 10/01/2019 Jack de Menezes

Spanish Police have arrested 15 people and investigated 68 more, including 28 professional tennis players, as part of a large-scale investigation into match-fixing, Europol have said.

The Spanish Civil Guard carried out a series of raids in coordination with the National High Court of Spain (Audiencia Nacional) and Europol on 11 houses on Thursday following an investigation into an Armenian criminal gang.

Europol confirmed that €167,000 (£151,000) was seized from the raids along with a shotgun, more than 50 electronic devices, credit cards, five luxury vehicles and numerous documents. Authorities have also frozen 42 bank accounts.

“Fifteen people have been arrested, among them the heads of the organisation, and another 68 are under investigation,” the Civil Guard 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.”

a person standing in front of a box © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

The investigation, launched in 2017 when the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) reported irregular activities in matches at ITF Futures and Challenger tournaments, alleges that professional players accepted bribes in return of fixing results.

Europol added that at least 97 ITF Futures and Challenger matches were fixed.

"Our officers have proved the group had been operating since February 2017 and estimate that they had earned millions of euros through the operation," added the Civil Guard's statement.

While the identities of 28 professional players have not been released, it has been stated that one of them participated at the 2018 US Open.

Spanish Police carried out raids on 11 houses on Thursday in a tennis match-fixing investigation (Europol) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Spanish Police carried out raids on 11 houses on Thursday in a tennis match-fixing investigation (Europol)

"The suspects bribed professional players to guarantee predetermined results and used the identities of thousands of citizens to bet on the pre-arranged games," Europol said.

One professional player has been accused of being the “go-between” for the gang and the rest of the criminal group, and members of the Armenian group are alleged to have attended matches in order to ensure that bribed players carry through with the pre-determined results, before giving the go-ahead to place bets at both national and international levels.

a man hitting a ball with a racket © Getty

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 added.

“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.”

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The Civil Guard added: “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.”

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