Spanish law enforcement officials have arrested 28 professional tennis players in an investigation into match fixing allegedly spearheaded by an Armenian organized crime gang, the European Union’s police agency Europol announced.
Europol said the players were among 83 people detained by Spain’s civil guard, known as Guardia Civil, among them a tennis player who participated in the U.S. Open last year.
“The suspects bribed professional players to guarantee predetermined results and used the identities of thousands of citizens to bet on the pre-arranged games,” the Guardia Civil said in a statement, adding that 97 International Tennis Federation matches were fixed.
The Guardia Civil said that its search of 11 homes in Spain had resulted in the seizure of 167,000 euros ($192,000) in cash were seized, along with a shotgun, more than 50 electronic devices, credit cards, five luxury vehicles and documentation related to the case.
“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, adding that 42 bank accounts were also frozen. None of the suspects have been named.
“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,” added the statement.
The investigation was triggered in 2017 when the international anti-corruption group, the Tennis Integrity Unit, complained about irregular activities related to pre-arranged matches in the ITF Futures and Challenger tournaments. The suspects bribed professional players to guarantee predetermined results and used the identities of thousands of citizens to bet on the pre-arranged games.