Spanish police link 28 tennis players to match-fixing

Spanish police say 28 professional tennis players, including one who participated in last year's U.S. Open, have been linked to an international organized group accused of fixing matches.

Reports say players accepted bribes from an Armenian group

Spaniard Marc Fornell-Mestres was accused of acting as a link between tennis players and the Armenian ring that bribed them. (Iusport/Twitter)

Spanish police say 28 professional tennis players, including one who participated in last year's U.S. Open, have been linked to an international organized group accused of fixing matches.

Authorities said on Thursday the players tainted results after taking bribes from an Armenian ring that was dismantled in October. Fifteen people were arrested at the time, including some of the tennis players.

Houses raided

Eleven houses were raided and police seized luxury vehicles, a shotgun, credit cards, and 167,000 euros ($191,000 US) in cash.

It wasn't clear if the player who took part in the U.S. Open was among those detained.

Police accused Spaniard player Marc Fornell-Mestres, whose highest career singles ranking was 236th in 2007, of acting as the link between players and the Armenian ring that bribed them for betting purposes.

No other names had been immediately disclosed by authorities.

The 36-year-old Fornell-Mestres was provisionally suspended from professional tennis at the end of last year, according to the Tennis Integrity Unit, which said the suspension related to an investigation into "alleged breaches of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program." Fornell-Mestres was ranked 1007th in singles and 772th in doubles at the end of 2018.

It was a warning by the Tennis Integrity Unit in 2017 that prompted Spanish authorities to begin the investigation.

Identity fraud

Police said the organized group bribed the players to guarantee predetermined results and used the identities of thousands of citizens to place international bets on the matches. Authorities said members of the Armenian ring attended the matches to ensure the players complied with what was previously agreed.

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

In total, 83 people were implicated in the probe, including the alleged leaders of the Armenian group. More than 40 bank accounts used by those allegedly involved with the ring were blocked by authorities.

Police are also investigating what they suspect are strong links between some of the suspects arrested in Spain and an Armenian-Belgian crime gang broken up by Belgium police last year, also suspected of fixing tennis matches. In the Belgium case, police announced in June the arrest of 13 people in Belgium and said the gang also targeted lower-level tennis matches.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.