Corruption and illegal bets: in Spain, 28 tennis players are suspected of participating in match-fixing
Spanish law enforcement agencies suspect 28 professional tennis players to participate in match fixing. In the interests of the investigation, the names of the athletes are not disclosed, but it is known that one of them played in the 2018 US Open tournament. In Spain, 15 people have already been detained in this case, altogether in the case of more than 60 defendants. It is also noted that Madrid revealed the illegal activities of a criminal gang that could have been involved in money laundering.
The Spanish Civil Guard, which is part of the Interior Ministry, conducted a large-scale operation, which resulted in the arrest of professional athletes suspected of organizing match-fixing matches.
The investigation, with the participation of the European Union Police Service (Europol), as well as the Spanish Tax Agency, began in February 2017 with the filing of the organization Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), which deals with the fight against corruption in this sport. Then a Spanish tennis player, whose name was not revealed, came under suspicion.
Also, the investigation revealed a criminal structure, the group members were implicated in a number of crimes, including fraud, money laundering, illegal possession of weapons and falsification of documents. According to the law enforcement agencies, the group was headed by Armenians.
“A group of Armenians used a professional player who served as a link between them and other members of the network. After giving a bribe, the Armenians went to the venue of the matches in order, thanks to their impressive physical presence, to make sure that the player performs his part of the deal. Then they gave the order to place bets at the national and international levels, “- the text of the statement of the police The Guardian.
During the investigation, searches were carried out in 11 houses of the suspects, about € 170,000, weapons, more than 50 electronic devices, as well as a large number of luxury items, including jewelry and five luxury cars, were seized. To hide their activities, attackers used stolen documents, as well as dozens of bank accounts.
According to Spanish law enforcement agencies, 15 suspects have been arrested in this case.
“15 people arrested. 68 others are currently under investigation. Among the suspects - 28 professional tennis players. One of them took part in the US Open in 2018, ”the Civil Guard said in a statement.
According to the Interpol press service, 83 people were detained in this case, including all involved athletes. In the interests of the investigation, their names are not disclosed. However, it is known that they took part in competitions of the “Challenger” and “Futures” series. In total 97 matches were recognized as contractual.
It is reported that one of the players directly related to the illegal activities of the organization is the Spaniard Marc Fornell-Mestres, the former 236th racket of the world. He was suspended from competing at the end of 2018. It is assumed that he served as a "link" between colleagues and members of the syndicate.
Details of the investigation became known literally a day after the Tennis Integrity Unit released some data on the results of its activities. It is reported that in 2018 a total of 264 matches came under suspicion as contractual, a record figure for the ten years of TIU existence. 21 tennis players were proven guilty, including the former 49th number of the Italian ATP ranking Daniele Brachchali, who received a lifetime ban.
“The annual growth in the number of players and officials involved in corrupt activities is a matter of concern, but it also reflects the success of the zero tolerance policy of violation of the rules by the tennis authorities,” said TIU CEO Steve Simon.
Most of the match fixtures were played in futures. At the same time, only three meetings within the Grand Slam were noted as suspicious. According to experts, this is due to the fact that the prize for participating in tournaments of this level significantly exceed the bonus in less prestigious competitions.
According to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), for 14 thousand professional athletes, tennis is the main source of income. At the same time, half of them do not earn from their participation in competitions, which means that they are at risk of engaging in illegal activities.