Spanish Police Link 28 Tennis Players to Match-Fixing Ring

MADRID — The Spanish police say 28 professional tennis players, including one who participated in last year’s United States Open, have been linked to an international organized group accused of fixing matches.

Authorities said on Thursday that 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.

Eleven houses were raided, and the police seized luxury vehicles, a shotgun, credit cards and 167,000 euros, or about $192,000.

It was not clear whether the player who took part in the U.S. Open was among those detained.

The police accused the Spaniard 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 were immediately disclosed by authorities.

Fornell-Mestres, 36, 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 1,007th in singles and 772nd 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.

The 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.

The European Union law enforcement agency Europol, which supported the operation led by Spanish authorities, said at least 97 matches from the 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.

The 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 the Belgium police last year, also suspected of fixing tennis matches. In the Belgium case, the police in June announced the arrest of 13 people in Belgium and said that the gang also targeted lower-level tennis matches.